The most common headline that we have grown accustomed to seeing is the sheer numbers of death from opioids. Experts estimate that nearly 50,000 American’s are dying from opioid overdoses each year, and the most recent figures released from The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) shows that 130 people die every day of an opioid overdose.
While drugs like heroin have been a cause for concern for the last 100 years, it wasn’t until the last two decades where Americans were affected in such a manner. Currently, we sit facing the deadliest drug epidemic that the country has ever encountered, and it has put our current administration in shambles looking for solutions to resolve it. The conversations can never capture the enormity of the crisis, but the focus is to saturate the citizens with information as a preventative measure.
While heroin has always been a problem throughout the world, it wasn’t until the late 1990s where the opioid epidemic began to gain steam. Opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharmaceutical developed a new product, which was known as OxyContin. It was a long-lasting medication designed to treat severe chronic pain.
Initially, representatives of the company reassured physicians in the medical community that their product was not addictive, and healthcare providers began prescribing at historic levels. It led to a widespread diversion and misuse of these medications, and it became increasingly evident in the medical community about how addictive it was. As a result, opioid overdoses began to increase dramatically. Government agencies reacted and placed restrictions on how much a doctor could prescribe.
For those already reliant on their doctor for medication, many were cut off and turned away. Subsequently, they turned to the street to purchase their drugs, but because of the limited supply, costs had skyrocketed. What was the alternative for someone addicted to drugs? Heroin. The drug is a fraction of the cost of oxycodone on the street and provides a much more intense high for its users.
For most, it was an easy decision to graduate to the harder drug. They would, if you will, get more bang for their buck. An estimated 80 percent of those who abuse heroin started using prescription drugs. The opioid crisis continued to gain steam, and your everyday people were turning to heroin to get their fix. First responders mention how the sheer volume of overdose deaths is like nothing they’ve ever seen.
There is a story about EMS supervisor Chad Ward whose body camera captured disturbing footage of a person overdoses on heroin. He walks up to the door where is greeted by a woman named Mary describing the man as “dead.” Chat reassured Mary and lets her know that he is going to work with him. He begins moving the guy, Joey, and administering oxygen.
The story goes onto say how this is a typical day in the life of Chad and his paramedics. Another paramedic describes how the problem is everywhere, and each call that he goes to he thinks to himself, “oh my goodness, here we go again, here we go again, here we go again.” Unfortunately, this is a reality that has become all too familiar for all of us, and despite the preventative measures being put in place, the numbers still indicate that we are currently at the peak of this crisis.
Heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance taken from the seed pod of the various opium poppy plants grown in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico, and Colombia. Heroin can be a white or brown powder, or a black sticky substance that is known as black tar heroin. Heroin can be injected, snorted, and even smoked. Those who inject the drug can experience adverse effects on their bodies.
Heroin enters the brain rapidly and binds to opioid receptors on cells located throughout the body, specifically the ones that are involved in treating feelings of pain and pleasure. Those who use the drug report a rush, which is the reason they continue to use the substance. Some of the short-term effects associated with heroin include:
Some other long-term effects include:
In 2016, nearly 948,000 American’s reported using heroin, and the people impacted most seem to be young adults aged 18 to 25. So you may wonder, where does heroin come from? The drug comes through our ports and the Mexican border, with around 90 percent of the drug originating in Afghanistan; however, only four percent of Afghani heroin reaches the United States.
Typically, the drug comes in from South America, and the heroin most often found east of the Mississippi is off-white heroin, and black tar heroin that is produced in Mexico is sold west of the Mississippi. Mexico remains one of the primary suppliers of heroin into the United States. Statistics show that the country does not have the kind of drug problem that the United States is currently battling.
Over the past several decades, the anti-drug policy in the states has favored attacking the supply. The article states “give drug dealers long prison sentences, and the ones that are left will charge more. If the prices go up, fewer people will get addicted.” The logic meant well, but drugs and drug addicts don’t follow conventional wisdom. Unfortunately, the street prices of heroin have dropped, while the drug has become purer.
The cost of the drug varies based on purity levels, and lately, we have seen a spike in heroin that is laced with fentanyl. The price of the drug can range from $2 per gram to $1,300. A gram in the United States of pure heroin can cost roughly $200, whereas in Kenya it can cost as little as $2.00.”
Other factors that influence cost can be the amount purchased at a time, purity, geographical location, and if the drug is cut. Some of the most common cutting agents of heroin include:
Another unfortunate factor is the widespread availability of heroin today. The market has become saturated with the drug as a direct result of the demand because of the increase in prescription drug costs.
The best way to avoid getting a bad batch of heroin and save your money is to get help. Heroin addiction can lead to a lifetime of jail, addiction, and even death. If you or a loved one is stuck using heroin and feel like there is nowhere to turn, we have the answer. Heroin can be expensive and drain your bank account or see you sell everything to maintain the habit. Even worse, many users begin stealing to fund their habit. It’s time to get help today.
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). What is the scope of heroin use in the United States? from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/scope-heroin-use-in-united-states
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (n.d.). Heroin. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/heroin
LeBeau, K. (n.d.). WSAZ Investigates: A Dose of Reality. from https://www.wsaz.com/content/news/WSAZ-Investigates-A-Dose-of-Reality-368538771.html
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2019, January 22). Opioid Overdose Crisis. from https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis