The face of today’s heroin users may not be what many of us think of. Most of us are likely to think of heroin addicts or users and criminals or someone who lurks in back alleys. Today’s heroin users, however, are our friends and neighbors, our co-workers and church congregation members.
Sadly, drug use became more prevalent among children in the last few decades. Some children smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol when still very young. Today children are exposed to and participating in these behaviors more than ever. By the time kids graduate from high school, nearly 40% of all teens will have tried marijuana. Some later move on to more addictive substances.
Although it cannot be assumed that all children who smoke marijuana today will become heroin addicts tomorrow, the danger exists. And long-term studies of high school students (drugfreeworld.org) show that few teens use other drugs without first having tried marijuana. With the increase use of marijuana due to legalization, this is worrisome. Once a person can no longer get the initial “rush” they seek from something like marijuana, they may begin to increase drug consumption or to look for something stronger.
Sadly, the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that more than 9.5% of youths aged 12 to 17 in the US were current illegal drug users. Further, in 2008, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reported that daily marijuana use among college students had doubled, and use of cocaine and heroin was on the rise as well. Along with that, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, estimated that 16 million people worldwide used opiates—opium, morphine, heroin and synthetic opiates.
Today’s heroin user could be 12 years old, play video games and enjoy the music of his generation. He could appear smart, stylish and bear none of the common traces of heroin use, such as needle marks on his arm. Because heroin is available in various forms that are easier to consume (such as pills) and more affordable forms as well, it is more tempting than ever. It used to be that heroin was injected using needles but now young people (and older people as well) who may have thought twice about injecting themselves with a drug via a needle may not hesitate to consume heroin in easier ways that seem less risky. Teaching young people about the dangers of heroin and public awareness about heroin addiction prevention is key is saving many people from a lifetime of sorrow, health issues, and destruction.