In the middle of January, an issue of the New England Journal of Medicine featured a report that was heralded as cause for celebration. The report carried news that the rates of prescription painkiller abuse and addiction in the United States were finally starting to decline, after years of alarming increases. Astonishing numbers of Americans had gone from using painkillers medically to abusing their pills, and finally many became addicted. Things got so bad that more than 15,000 people were dying every year, in what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention termed a “deadly epidemic” of painkiller abuse. So with things having gotten as bad as they did, any news that the clouds were parting would of course be welcomed and provide considerable encouragement. But there is another facet to the situation which must not be overlooked before a final verdict is laid down and a decision is made as to whether we are finally on the verge of winning this battle in the war on drugs. That facet is heroin. Continue reading
Nearly 50 years ago, a retired bishop of the Catholic Church in Albany, New York, founded a drug rehab center, naming it the Hope House. His purpose was to help the large numbers of African-American men whose lives had been devastated by the epidemic of heroin addiction. Recently, the center has had to double its capacity in response to a major increase in the rates of heroin abuse, with large numbers of people getting hooked on this powerfully addictive and dangerous drug in the past few years. The Albany Times Union reports on this news, including mention of the fact that the Hope House has not only had to double its capability of serving clients but has also made preparations to expand at the beginning of 2015 to open another facility dedicated exclusively to treating adolescents. The new facility is planned to treat youths no older than 21 and as young as 12. It has been determined to be necessary for the center, since they currently have a long waiting list for adolescent treatment. There has been a considerable increase in the rates of adolescent heroin abuse in recent years, and it is now time to take effective action to get the problem under control and save young lives threatened by this drug. Continue reading
Two of the articles dealt with the increasing number of babies born in Massachusetts and Rhode Island who were exposed to the mother’s heroin or other opiate use before being born. After birth, they go through a series of symptoms called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. The name refers to the fact that these newborns are abstinent from the drugs they were being exposed to because the supply via the mother has been withdrawn. Continue reading
Look at this quote from one of our rehab program graduates: “Using marijuana opened the door to other drugs, other people, I stopped caring about life. I stopped going to school. I didn’t have goals any more. I got introduced to heroin, cocaine. And I started using that.”
And here’s another: “I started smoking pot to fit in with everybody. And it looked like everybody was having a good time. And they told me ‘nobody’s died from smoking pot.’ So I did it and it progressed into cocaine and heroin and my life was just downhill.”
Nobody can describe this transition better than a person who lived it. But of course, it’s hard to explain this to a teen or young adult that wants to do what his friends are doing – and seeming to have fun while they are doing it. Continue reading
From Seattle, a report has just come out that illustrates the migration from prescription pain pill abuse to the use of heroin, with deadly results. This is a tragic trend that has been seen in every corner of our country. In New England, the effect of this migration has been particularly brutal.
You may have already heard about this trend in your local newspapers. It’s been on the front pages for the last few years – local kids dying from heroin overdoses to the total astonishment and shock of their families. The potency of heroin is so variable that just because these teens and young adults survived their abuse of prescription drugs, a highly potent dose of heroin could catch them completely off guard and end their chances of recovery, happiness or success in life, forever. Continue reading
Maryland has long struggled with a heroin problem. In fact, the Baltimore inner city has been renowned as a center of heroin abuse and addiction for many years. It’s not uncommon for multiple generations in the same family to seek help for addiction at the same time. But as opiate painkillers introduced a broad spectrum of people to a dependence on this type of drug, heroin abuse has followed and spread across the Maryland landscape. After all, there are drugstores in every town in every state in the US. And far too many states have unscrupulous doctors who are willing to make the money by selling prescriptions for addictive substances. The migration to heroin is seen as necessary when money sources dry up, because heroin is so much cheaper than pills.
Even though Maryland already had a high rate of heroin abuse, recent news reports state that there has been an 88% increase in heroin-related overdoses in a two year period. This increase really takes the problem to a fever pitch in the state. Continue reading
Once upon a time, not so long ago, it was inconceivable that the average American would be addicted to heroin. It was only something that maybe people out on the fringes of society would do. Maybe bikers or jazz musicians or people who spent a lot of time in jail.
This never really was the truth, but it was the impression most middle class Americans had. No one THEY knew would ever use heroin, much less be addicted to it.
Fast forward to this decade. The growing heroin problem in this country is overwhelming public health departments. Not a day goes by that I don’t see a news article about a state or county that is trying to come to grips with overdose deaths and drug trafficking. Like this article from The Pocono Record: Continue reading
The Washington Post just published an article that could be predicting a terrifying trend. According to an April 6th article, Mexican farmers are pulling out their marijuana crops and planting heroin poppies instead. So cheap heroin (far cheaper than prescription painkillers) has been increasingly found crossing the border.
Here’s what I am concerned about. As more states authorize the use of marijuana for medical or recreational use, there will be more of that drug in circulation. Prices will come down. That is, of course, the main reason Mexican farmers are changing their crops. They want a crop with a higher price attached. What would a savvy businessman in the drug business do? Offer another product that might appeal to someone already using alcohol or marijuana that will make the farmer more money. Continue reading
When the unaddicted public thinks of heroin addicts, I suspect that they think of someone strung out due to withdrawal sickness, the way Frank Sinatra was in the movie Man with a Golden Arm. Or if they know something about the drug, they might picture someone “on the nod,” in other words, nodding off as the opiate makes them drowsy.
Not many people realize that many heroin addicts just get enough of the drug to “get well,” as they call it. What they mean is that the amount of heroin they have will just keep the dopesickness, the withdrawal pains away. It’s not nearly enough to get high. Continue reading
When reports hit the news of the heroin overdose death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, one item in the story that attracted attention was the fact that only months before his death, the actor had checked into rehab in an attempt to get sober. If Hoffman had been to rehab, and so recently, shouldn’t he have been clean? Shouldn’t he have been able to avoid a tragic overdose death? Questions like these were in the minds of many after Hoffman was found dead with a needle in his arm and dozens of bags of heroin in his apartment in Manhattan. What many overlooked was the fact that Hoffman’s recent stint in rehab was a brief one. He spent only 10 days in treatment, a period that many in the field of addiction recovery will confirm simply is not long enough to make a meaningful difference. To put it simply, drug rehab is not something you can do overnight, and when so much is on the line — one’s chance of enjoying a future of happiness and health — it is well worth the time and effort to make sure it is done right. The proof is in the results, and the final outcome of the situation confirms that 10 days in rehab simply was not long enough for Philip Seymour Hoffman to beat his addiction to heroin. Continue reading