Heroin Abuse is on our Doorstep

Of course, I see it every day because I work in the addiction treatment field, but increasingly, families that never thought they’d be touched by substance abuse or addiction are having just that experience. Heroin abuse, once considered an inner-city scourge, is now widely used by white, insured, middle-class and wealthy individuals. The reason is the over-prescription of prescription class painkillers.

It was once thought that marijuana or alcohol were the premier gateway drugs that people started using first, before other, “harder” drugs. The LA Times reports that this is no longer the case:

…The prescription painkiller has become the new gateway drug to heroin use, eclipsing marijuana, cocaine and alcohol…. People addicted to narcotic painkillers are 40 times more likely to misuse heroin….

At the same time… the flow of cheap heroin from Mexico has surged, offering users a ready supply of an inexpensive substitute to prescription painkillers.

…”Those two factors are driving the increase and will drive the strategies we need to turn this around.”

The real tragedy is that not much effective work is being done to curb this problem. Certainly, physicians, licensing agencies, and pharmacists have worked with lawmakers to make changes to the prescription process, but the damage is already done. Overdose rates declined after two prescription drugs were taken off the market, so we have good evidence of the causal relationship. Yet, we have no idea how many tens or hundreds of thousands of people are already addicted to prescription painkillers and/or heroin. These people are in need of immediate, accessible, affordable treatment. Even with the parity act and the affordable care act, quality treatment of the duration needed to overcome heroin or prescription painkiller addiction may not be available.

If you or someone you love is in need of quality, affordable addiction treatment, seek out a treatment center that specializes in the long-term treatment of opioid abuse. This is not a thirty day fix and you or your loved one deserve the best care available to you.