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Rise of heroin use should alarm us all
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Forsyth County News

Drug abuse appears to be at an all-time high, especially among young people, with whom heroin seems to be increasingly popular.

A few years ago, we heard so much about prescription pain medication. Then, doctors seemed to really clamp down and weren’t prescribing it as much. But, of course, people were still getting their hands on it.

Some accounts I read at the time indicated that many people began turning to heroin because it was less expensive and easier to obtain. A friend told me one prescription pill might cost $40, while a “hit” of heroin could be as little as $6.

What exactly is heroin and how did we get to this point?

After doing some research, I discovered that heroin was first manufactured in 1898 by the Bayer pharmaceutical company of Germany. It was supposed to help treat tuberculosis and serve as a cure for morphine addiction.

Remember that during the 1850s, opium was a major problem here in the United States. Thus, a less potent “non-addictive” substitute was needed. Enter morphine.

Unfortunately, addiction to morphine soon became worse than opium. Common sense would suggest that perhaps we should’ve just stopped there. But inventors soon created “non-addictive” heroin, which as before, proved worse than morphine.

What an ugly pattern. Next came methadone, which is still used to try to help heroin addicts get off of the powerfully addictive drug.

So, just how big is the heroin problem? By the late 1990s, some estimates put the mortality rate of heroin addicts at about 20 times greater than that of the rest of the population.

There are many more alarming statistics. For example, it was estimated there were possibly 900,000 heroin users in America as of 2007.

Also that year, it was revealed that 93 percent of the world’s opium supply came from Afghanistan. Opium is the raw material from which heroin is made.

Until a few years ago, I thought heroin users lived in abandoned buildings or under bridges. I likely would never have encountered such a person. Time to get out of the glass bubble.

I have several friends who have young adult children who are either in rehab for a heroin addiction, or are out but still fighting the bonds of addiction.

I will never forget meeting many young men at the local nonprofit No Longer Bound, those who worked there as well as those who were in the program.

I can assure you that you would never know these young men had ever had a problem, especially with a drug like heroin.

Because the strength of heroin is nearly impossible to determine, there is always a danger of an overdose. Dealers often cut the heroin with all sorts of things, namely chemicals and poison.

My friend whose son is in rehab has been to three funerals in the last few years of young people who lost their lives due to accidental overdoses. This is such a tragedy, and makes my heart hurt for those families.

I used to think if someone was high on heroin, he or she would be completely out of it. Apparently, it’s the opposite. The first time people use it, the drug often makes them feel extroverted and able to communicate easily.

Sadly, it takes more and more of the drug to feel the same way. And once the addiction takes hold, the addict cares about nothing but getting the drug.

I have interviewed young men who told me they stole from their parents, grandparents, friends, anybody in order to feed the habit.

In addition, withdrawal from heroin is extremely painful, so the addict has a physical pain to deal with along with the mental anguish.

As parents, we have so much to worry about with our children. We all need to add heroin to the list and be sure and talk to our children about this epidemic.

Grandparents should also be a part of this. Sometimes teenagers are angry at their parents and a grandparent may have more influence. The worst thing we can do is stay silent.

Many of you reading this have loved ones who are dealing with addiction. Sometimes all we can do is pray. I hope all of us will pause and say a prayer for those suffering.

We need to pray for those who are addicted, as well as their families and those who are trying to help them.

 

Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at contact@adlenrobinson.com.