11 Apr 2017

The Face of Heroin has Changed

Heroin has taken the next step in notoriety and become a national health crisis, with reports streaming from New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, and many other states across the country. Vermont’s governor has declared the state in a heroin crisis and Rhode Island police officers will soon carry Narcan and naloxone in an effort to reverse overdoses. Although its use has spread, the prevalence and effect of heroin on the user and on society as a whole has long been evident. The new shocker of this highly addictive drug is its user.

Initially, heroin use was linked with the urban poor, but new reports are showing that today’s heroin user is young, white, and suburban. In the 1970s, the average heroin user was an inner city, male minority - a group that now makes up less than 10 percent of heroin users. A survey revealed that out of the 9,000 observed patients enrolled in treatment centers throughout the United States, 90 percent were white men and women with the average age of 23-years-old.

Nearly 75 percent of the surveyed people said that they started down the road to heroin by abusing opioid prescription, like OxyContin. Although prescription opioids are still the most abused drugs in the United States, they have become the greatest gateway drug, as many turn to heroin because it’s cheaper - a hit costing a mere fraction of a single prescription pill on the street.

Studies have long reflected the rapid spread of heroin beyond urban centers, effecting more and more individuals and their loved ones, but you don’t need a scientist to see what is happening. In 2007, more than 2,000 people died of heroin overdose and another 200,000 visited ERs the following year after overdosing. As recently as early 2014, a potent heroin batch killed several people in Pennsylvania.

It is clear that the primary demographic of heroin users has shifted, but the drug remains as dangerous as ever. However, perhaps this change can serve to highlight the highaddiction rates of prescription opiates, as many groups across the country start to rally for restrictions on these prescriptions.