The use of heroin continues to be a leading cause of death in drug overdoses in the state of Illinois. The face of heroin has changed dramatically since the 1960’s, when it was considered a back-alley drug, used by “junkies” who were poverty stricken, homeless and crime driven. Heroin now affects the young, the wealthy, the employed, and the smart. People coming into treatment facilities for heroin detox are now lawyers, nurses, star athletes from “good’ families who live in “good” neighborhoods…
The epidemic of young adult heroin abuse remains hidden. Parents often feel shame, embarrassment, and blame themselves. Parents also report feeling isolated in their struggle; not knowing other families who have endured the same crisis and not being familiar with resources in their communities for help. Young adults can often hide their addiction for a period of time if they are away at college or living on their own.
The increase of heroin use is directly correlated to the abuse and use of prescription painkiller use, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone. While many people believe painkillers are not “dangerous” because they are prescribed by doctors, the abuse of these drugs can often lead to dependence. And for some people, that dependence can lead to heroin use. Heroin and opiates have the same active ingredient, which allows its’ users to feel a sense of euphoria, a heightened state of relaxation and happiness.
Due to the recent changes in many state laws to decrease the painkiller abuse epidemic, people who have become dependent on opiates search out other options. Heroin is widely available and extremely cheap. One study showed that people who abused painkillers, like Oxycontin, were 19 times more likely to start using heroin. The same study found that 8 out of 10 people who started using heroin had abused painkillers first.
At higher doses, opiates and heroin can slow a user’s heart rate to dangerously low levels. Unlike prescription painkillers, heroin is a street drug; often impure and usually injected. One time use of this dangerous drug can be lethal. Heroin users are dying of overdoses in alarmingly high numbers. Heroin deaths have tripled or even quadrupled in many communities. Communities like mine and yours. Good families, good homes, good kids, good parents. Do not be fooled by the new face of heroin.
RESOURCES FOR ADDICTION IN ILLINOIS
Gateway Foundation 24 hour helpline #1-877-958-3716 24
Alexian Brothers Center for Addiction Medicine
See www.recovery.org for more treatment options
- Tracy Strepek, LCSW, Extension 351