Not too long ago, the most common demographic for heroin use and overdoses were African-American males over the age of 45 in urban areas. Today, the story is much different. Now more than half of the heroin-related deaths are attributed to white males between the ages of 18 and 44 who are from suburban and rural areas.
As heroin use has exploded again in our country, so have the number of deaths caused by the drug. The most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that there were more than 8,200 in 2013, which was nearly three times the amount from just a few years earlier. A large percentage of these tragic deaths are occurring in the Midwest.
Additionally, there were more than 16,000 deaths associated with prescription painkillers. Painkiller deaths appear to be leveling off, but those associated with heroin are still rapidly increasing. This trend is unfortunately expected to continue rising.
It has been well-established that much of the heroin use in our country has been the direct result of people first getting hooked on painkillers. Drug companies have been found guilty in pushing the over-prescribing of these drugs, and many doctors across the country have been arrested for operating pill mills and handing out drugs for money. The majority of healthcare providers simply underestimated the powerfully addictive qualities of these prescriptions and the grip they would hold on unsuspecting people who became dependent.
People addicted to painkillers often look for stronger and cheaper substances to use, which is how they wind up on heroin, something none of them thought would ever happen. Since heroin is not subjected to the same regulations that prescription medications are, users never know exactly what they are ingesting. The purity level in heroin is likely to be different from dealer to dealer and even batch to batch. These fluctuations in purity have contributed to the heroin death toll. Sometimes the drug contains an even more powerful opiate such as fentanyl.
Another major factor in heroin deaths occurs when users attempt to get clean and then relapse back to the drug. The body cannot tolerate the same amount of the drug after being clean for several weeks or several months. The person loses some of their tolerance, yet abuses the same quantity of heroin they were using before becoming clean.
These are all reminders that the time to act is now when it comes to getting help for your loved one. We have helped families all over the country with heroin addiction interventions. Call us to speak with one of our intervention counselors to learn more how to end this behavior before something more drastic happens.