The addiction to heroin has been an issue since the 1900s when the drug was grown and shipped to industrialized nations. Throughout the years, heroin trends have changed, and the rates for adult heroin use have actually fallen in recent years. Unfortunately, there is a disturbing new trend, i.e., a dramatic increase in teenage heroin use. A closer look into this powerful, potent drug can tell us more about how it affects its young users and hook them to heroin addiction.
Heroin was a popular drug in the 1960s and 70s for many of the same reasons why it is today. It is cheap and leaves users with feelings of euphoria, elation, and happiness. Yet, there were many factors that led heroin to drop in popularity. First, it was not exactly easy to administer. Users needed to inject heroin with a needle, and with all the hype of AIDS and dirty needles back in the 1980s and 90s, people were turned off from using shared needles.
Teens especially have been turned off by heroin because of the needles and track marks associated with the drug. They have resorted to cleaner and safer drugs that can be taken orally. However, that is all changing. Today’s heroin is purer than it has been and can be snorted instead of injected intravenously. This has given heroin an improved image, and teens can still get high without having to use needles or exhibit physical evidence like track marks.
Furthermore, heroin is cheap. Users get more bang for their buck compared to other drugs, and for those who are severely addicted, heroin is the last resort. Teens do not start off with heroin; they are led on this path from other drugs, and these drugs are painkillers.
Today’s painkillers make heroin so different now from it was a few years ago. Painkillers like OxyContin are on the rise, and the drug is manufactured in 15 million more doses every few years. Because both OxyContin and heroin are opioids, it makes teens feel less threatened by the drug and more familiar with its side effects.
OxyContin is a drug of choice because it is easy to obtain and widely available, and can be legally prescribed for chronic pain. Teens often experiment with the drugs after finding them in the home and may share them with friends and combine them with other prescription drugs.
Although statistics are limited, the rate of heroin use among teens has risen significantly in the past two years. Interestingly, these teens come from affluent areas in Texas where education, money, and good jobs are the norm. They are cheerleaders, athletes, and college students. This is a far cry from past heroin users who were believed to be poor, lower-class citizens who could not afford cocaine.
Heroin is a very difficult drug to quit, but an intensive inpatient treatment program can help. With a medically assisted detoxification process, a rigorous counseling program, and attentive aftercare and relapse prevention, a teen can fight heroin addiction and slowly rebuild their lives.