An Increasingly Deadly Public Health Crisis
Heroin addiction has exploded in the United States in recent years, nearly quadrupling over the past decade. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that there were over 10,000 heroin-related deaths in 2014. The drug has experienced a resurgence since 2000, and has become a pervasive public health issue across the entire United States. Heroin addiction occurs as the result of prolonged and untreated heroin abuse and can manifest very quickly after an individual first starts using. It is one of the most deadly forms of chemical dependency. One of the truly tragic elements of the American heroin epidemic is how difficult it is to access safe, quality and comprehensive treatment.
Causes of Heroin Addiction
Heroin addiction develops as a result of ongoing and untreated heroin abuse. It’s helpful, however, to recognize some of the complex causes that often cause addicts to start using heroin in the first place.
Some of the main causes of heroin addiction include:
- Mental Illness
- Family History
- External Lifestyle Factors
During the past decade or so, one of the most prominent causes of heroin addiction has been the graduation to heroin from prescription opioids like Vicodin and OxyContin. The effects of these drugs mirror those of heroin. In the wake of heightened regulation of prescription opioid diversion, many former opioid addicts are finding their regular supply of painkillers more expensive and much less accessible. As a result, they’re turning to heroin as a cheaper alternative. An oxycodone tablet can sell for an average of $30 on the street, whereas a bag of heroin goes for about $5.
Dangers of Heroin Addiction
Heroin causes significant and pervasive damage to the brain and body. It is one of the most addictive and potent narcotics, and quickly alters the brain’s chemistry, rewiring it to constantly crave the drug. As long-term heroin abuse persists, users leave themselves vulnerable to a variety of permanent physical and emotional dangers, such as:
- Deterioration of Brain Matter
- Muscle and Bone Pain
- Extreme Weight Loss
- Intestinal Distress
- Heart Attack
- Extreme Fluctuations in Body Temperature
- Fever and Flu-Like Symptoms
- Seizures, Coma and Overdose
These symptoms, and many others, will increase and get more severe the longer heroin abuse is allowed to continue. It is critically important that users seek treatment immediately after experiencing any signs of withdrawal to prevent the onset of dependency.