The Heroin Crisis in America


Over the last decade, heroin use has escalated significantly in the United States. Heroin addiction now affects millions of Americans of all ages, ethnicity and income levels. Without professional help from a detox center, heroin addiction typically results in a downward spiraling lifestyle that often leads to overdose and death.


According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), heroin deaths nationwide increased by 594 percent between 2001 and 2014. In 2014, over 47,000 Americans died of a drug overdose. This number represents an all-time high and accounts for more deaths than occurred from car accidents, renal failure, liver disease, and suicide. Of the 47,055 deaths recorded, heroin overdose was responsible for over one-fifth.

In the 1960s and 1970s, heroin was a popular go-to drug of Greenwich Village types, but now it’s often the drug of choice for everyday people including doctors, lawyers, bankers, construction workers, and even high school students. Heroin use has become an epidemic among young people between the ages of 18 and 30 who often don’t even realize the consequences of the drug. According to statistics, young people are dying at alarming rates because of heroin overdose. According to a CDC study, in the last 10 years almost 90 percent of people who tried heroin for the first time were white, and the highest use rates were among individuals making less than $20,000 a year. Poor, young, white males are especially at risk.

Opiates and Prescription Pain Killers

The use of opiates to relieve pain has been around since ancient Egyptian times, but use was heavily regulated until the early 20th century. During the 1980s, doctors started to prescribe opioid drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone to patients suffering from chronic pain. These drugs did relieve pain, but they also had addictive qualities. In 1996, Purdue Pharmaceuticals introduced America to OxyContin, a pill that could relieve pain for up to 12 hours. For millions of Americans, OxyContin was seen as a fast-acting pain relief drug that quickly became a popular choice for people suffering from all types of chronic pain. The popularity and expense of the drug prompted dozens of copycat versions, some which were not as safe or controlled by FDA regulations.

By 2004, studies showed that over two million people over the age of 12 were using prescription painkillers for medical and non-medical reasons. The pharmaceutical companies that had vigorously marketed profitable opioid drugs often misrepresented their addictive properties to doctors and patients. Many doctors over-prescribed opioid drugs for pain, and many patients became addicted. As a result, methadone clinics opened around the country and reached out to the public with opiate-addiction programs. Prosecutors cracked down on doctors who were over-prescribing opioid drugs. In 2014, Vicodin and other hydrocodone-based drugs joined OxyContin as highly-addictive drugs, just one level below illegal substances like heroin, ecstasy, and bath salts.


As opioid drugs became increasingly popular, they also became more expensive and more heavily regulated by authorities. Heroin filled a void as a easy-to-get, cheaper alternative. In many areas of the country, a single bag of heroin (approximately 100 mg), can be purchased on the streets for the same price as a pack of cigarettes. As a comparison, one tablet of OxyContin (30 mg) can cost as much as $90 or more.

With an increased demand for heroin, drug cartels began moving large amounts of heroin into the United States. According to border Patrol agents, heroin is commonly concealed in passenger vehicles passing through checkpoints along the Mexican/U.S. border. Since 2008, heroin confiscated at border crossings has increased from about 556 kilos to about 2100 kilos. As the demand and use of heroin increases, addiction and overdose deaths are also increasing. According to the CDC, the rapid rise in heroin overdose deaths in recent years is largely linked to the emergence of fentanyl, a powerful, synthetic opioid that’s often added to heroin. CDC reports show that fentanyl is 80 times as potent as morphine and hundreds of times more potent than heroin.

Kicking an Addiction

Without a heroin detox process in a professional setting, kicking an opiate addiction or heroin addiction is almost impossible. Opioid drugs and heroin are so strong and addictive, the chance of relapse without medical help is very likely. To overcome an addiction, you need medical treatment and supervision, as well as psychological counseling that will redirect your lifestyle path. If you are struggling with addiction, seek professional help from a reputable detox center and don’t try to kick your addiction alone.

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