Rise in Heroin overdoses in the US
Recently, much attention has been focused on the rise in heroin related deaths in the United States. A US Federal Health report published this past fall indicates that heroin overdoses doubled from 2010 to 2012. This reports contained data collected from 28 states, accounting for 56% of the US population. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the large increase in heroin-related deaths is directly tied to the epidemic of narcotic painkiller abuse.
Dr. Len Paulozzi, the study’s co-author, said that, “There is a growing population of people who are using narcotics, whether the prescription variety or heroin.” He further indicates that the overprescribing for the past 20 years of painkillers such as Oxycotin and Vcodin is responsible for the increase in heroin use and overdoses.
Steven Reinberg wrote in cbsnews.com Healthy Day that, “Previous research showed that from 2009 to 2012, there was a 74 percent increase in the number of people aged 12 and older.”
This and other frightening facts about the increase of heroin use are showing up in communities and cities all over the US. The CDC report indicates that the worst affected areas are in the Northwest and the Southern parts of the US, but that the entire country is affected.
For instance, just last week, AL.com’s Carol Robinson reported that, “Heroin deaths in Jefferson County jumped about 140 percent in 2014 in what authorities say is a steadily-growing epidemic not likely to end anytime soon. There were 123 confirmed heroin deaths countywide as of Dec. 29, according to the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office. There are at least 18 more suspected heroin deaths, including several this week. Investigators are awaiting toxicology test results to confirm the cause in those cases but all evidence points to heroin.”
Robinson further reported that, “The issue isn’t unique to Jefferson County. Both Shelby and Tuscaloosa counties have seen spikes as well, as have communities nationwide. “
“When Birmingham police go out into these areas where there is high violent crime, they’re falling all over heroin,” U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance said earlier this year… It is also in Gardendale, Fultondale, Vestavia, Mountain Brook, Hoover and at the University of Alabama.” The report further indicates deaths in many other areas of Alabama as well.
Further, AL.com reports that, “Over the past three years, the average age of heroin-related deaths in Jefferson County was 36. Of the victims, 88 percent were white.”
Another interesting point to come out of the research by Paulozzi and his colleagues is that deaths from heroin overdose also vary by age. He indicates that the research shows that deaths from heroin overdose have climbed 120 percent among those 45 to 54 and about 109 percent among those 25 to 34.
Solving this rising epidemic of heroin overdose begins with stopping the addiction to narcotic painkillers through the reducing the prescriptions to such drugs. For those already struggling with addiction, Paulozzi said that increased availability to heroin addiction treatment is key. If those struggling with addiction to heroin don’t receive help, their risks of ending up in a fatal overdose climb significantly.
Most often, a heroin abuser previously abused some type of prescription drugs. At some point prescription drugs become harder to get, are more expensive and provide less of a high. Heroin becomes an easy alternative because it is cheaper, easy to obtain and provides an acceptable or better high. Because the demand for heroin has increased, the price has been driven down by the competition.
Availability, purity and the pursuit of a higher high are also to blame for the increase in the numbers of overdoses.
Heroin is entering into rural and non-urban areas. Many of these areas are where the huge increases of heroin overdoses are occurring. It is vital that there is treatment and recovery help in every area for those addicted to heroin to stop the rise in fatality associated with this deadly drug.
Jefferson County sheriff’s Chief Deputy Randy Christian said, “Heroin is extremely addictive and addicts struggle with rehab efforts, relapsing frequently. Abusers don’t know the chemical make-up or purity of what they’re injecting or snorting and sadly the increasing outcome of their addiction is overdose, and more frequently than ever, death.”
Further, prevention is key in stopping the spread of heroin addiction. In order to prevent the increase in addiction, the medical community must prescribe much more carefully and cautiously. Sadly, most believe that the problems associated with heroin will only rise as it becomes more available and turf wars begin over the demand for the drug.