Resources & Education

January 23rd, 2015

Who Are The Heroin Users and Abusers of 2015?

Lonely student feeling excluded on campusWhen you think of a heroin addict, who do you picture? A pale, gaunt, young rock star? A dirty, poor or homeless criminal? Try again. Today’s heroin addict is most likely to be college-aged, male or female, suburban and white. How did this change come about, and how will it affect your community—or even you or your family?

Why Heroin Has Become So Popular Again
The path to addiction usually starts with prescription painkillers. Believe it or not, heroin has become cheaper and easier to acquire than some prescription medications, which until recently were the addictive substance of choice for middle-class, 20-something white men and women. For example, the narcotic painkiller OxyContin has become expensive and is no longer easy to abuse by crushing or dissolving after pharmaceutical companies reformulated it.

If a doctor discontinues a legitimate prescription for pain medication because the pain is gone, but the patient still craves a drug rush, the patient may discover that heroin is a cheaper substitute—an OxyContin pill can cost $80 on the street, while a hit of heroin runs about $10.

Heroin is highly addictive and may become a nasty habit after only one or two hits. Originally developed in 1898 by Bayer Pharmaceutical Company as a cough, chest and lung medication, people used it for a couple of decades before Congress banned its manufacture, importation and sale for being even more addictive than morphine.

Who Else Uses Heroin?
It’s not only 20-somethings who are falling prey to heroin. Intelligent, educated and successful professionals from all walks of life—police officers, attorneys, nurses and even ministers—are becoming addicts. And while heroin is still popular in urban centers, it has moved into suburbia and even rural areas. Heroin overdoses have become so common that police officers everywhere from big cities to small towns have begun carrying Naloxone, a medication used to counter the effects of overdose.

What Are Some Of The Signs Of Heroin Addiction?
Here are some common signs of heroin use, which are visible during and after heroin consumption:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Constricted (small) pupils
  • Disorientation
  • Slurred, garbled or incoherent speech
  • Sudden changes of behavior or demeanor
  • Cycles of hyper alertness followed by suddenly nodding off
  • Droopy appearance (heavy arms and legs)

You can also look for possession of paraphernalia used to prepare, inject or consume heroin, such as:

  • Needles or syringes
  • Burned spoons
  • Aluminum foil with burn marks
  • Missing shoelaces
  • Straws with burn marks
  • Small plastic bags with white powdery residue

Heroin addiction is insidious, quickly acquired and no longer restricted to young urban males or street people. It’s easy to “graduate” from taking prescribed pain medication to smoking or even injecting heroin as the addict’s need becomes all-consuming.

If you suspect a friend or loved one is abusing either prescription drugs or heroin, call the HOPE line at (855) 969.HOPE or Horizon Health Services at (716) 831-1800. We can provide answers and the help you need.

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