Recent high profile celebrity overdoses have pushed the heroin and opioid addiction epidemic into the news and spurred serious national debate as to what measures must be taken to stave off the rising tide of misery and fatalities.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) presents some staggering statistics regarding this highly addictive drug. Heroin use is on the increase with men and women, across almost every age group and income level, and has nearly doubled among young adults, ages 18 to 25. The CDC reports that between 2002 and 2013, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled.
In addition, a July 2014 CDC report indicated that 46 Americans die from an overdose of prescription painkillers every day. This is important to note because opioid-based painkillers are, in many cases, the gateway to heroin addiction.
Heroin Addiction – The Human Cost
On a macro level, the statistics paint a bleak picture, but if you or a loved one is suffering from heroin addiction on a personal level, you understand the debilitating human cost, and the heavy toll the drug takes each and every day. Recovering heroin addicts often describe years (for some addicts, decades) of their lives utterly wasted on the daily merry-go-round of finding a source, securing their supply and getting high, over and over again.
What makes heroin so dangerous is the human body builds up a tolerance to the drug. As time goes by, the addict requires more heroin to maintain the same high. This can have deadly consequences when an addict miscalculates and goes too far. It is often said that addicts need to hit bottom before they’ll seek help. But in the case of heroin addiction, many times hitting bottom means death by accidental overdose, which is not only a tragedy for the addict but also a terrible loss for family and friends.
A Heroin Vaccine In The Making
When we think of vaccines, those that prevent diseases like polio, measles and mumps come to mind. However, strides are being made now to develop a vaccine that could potentially treat those who suffer from addiction and potentially even prevent heroin abuse before it starts. Chemist and immunologist Kim Janda at the Scripps Research Institute has been working on addiction vaccines for the past 25 years. Among them, a meth vaccine, a cocaine vaccine and others.
According to Janda, the experimental heroin vaccine he is currently researching is the most promising. In over-simplified terms, the vaccine works by creating a “wall” to block the drug. By preventing heroin from reaching the brain, the vaccine preempts the euphoric high that ignites the craving that fuels the cycle of addiction. No euphoric high means a key element in the addictive cycle has been removed, which provides the addict with a greatly improved chance of recovering from heroin addiction. Experiments with heroin-addicted rats produced encouraging results.
At this point, the major drawback to continue the study and progress to human trials, is lack of funding. Whether or not the study is underwritten, the fact that Janda and his colleagues have found ways to combat heroin addiction means one day, we will likely have a virus to counter heroin addiction and addiction to other drugs, too. So time willing, the hope is there.
Heroin, The Ticking Time Bomb
The question is, if you are an addict, can you continue to tempt fate by playing heroin’s version of Russian roulette? Many addicts promise themselves they’ll “quit tomorrow.” But tomorrow never comes. Family members and loved ones of heroin addicts have their own version of procrastination called, “I’ll do that intervention… tomorrow.” But tomorrow may be too late.
The time to get help is now. If you have a loved one that is spiraling out of control because of heroin addiction, don’t wait another day. Call Family First Intervention now to get answers to your questions.