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Nationwide study finds new heroin users mostly young white adults
A nationwide survey has found that new heroin users today are a very different group from the traditional beginners a couple of decades ago.
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis say that, in the past, heroin was a drug that introduced people to narcotics. Back in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s, more than 80 percent were inner-city, disadvantaged male minorities who began using heroin at around 16 year old.
Today, more than 90 percent of new heroin users are young white adults from middle-class homes in suburban and even rural areas, and they’re already hooked on opiates – prescription painkillers. At 23 years old, they’re significantly older than the traditional teenager from the inner city, and even though they may have started out wealthier, their pill-popping habits have dried up their resources. They are switching to heroin simply because their OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin dependencies have become way too expensive.
The researchers gathered data from more than 150 drug treatment centers across the country. From 2010 to 2013, more than 9,000 opiate-dependent patients completed surveys, and nearly a third of them reported that heroin was their primary drug of abuse.
There were three key factors for choosing heroin:
- Accessibility – it’s everywhere and very low cost
- Enjoyment of the high
- Ease of use, whether smoked, snorted or injected
Another factor that increased the switch to heroin was the reformulation in 2010 of OxyContin, to make it harder to crush the pills to powder to snort or dissolve and inject it. Before long, the original OxyContin reached $1 a milligram on the street – $80 for a single 80mg tablet – and countless thousands of OxyContin addicts turned to heroin, only $10 for an equivalent high. (Pictured at right, Asian brown and white heroin. Source: DEA).
“If you make abuse-deterrent formulations of these drugs and make it harder to get high, these people aren’t just going to stop using drugs,” said principal investigator Theodore J. Cicero, PhD, a professor of neuropharmacology. “As we made it more difficult to use one drug, people simply migrated to another. Policymakers weren’t ready for that, and we certainly didn’t anticipate a shift to heroin.”
But that’s the way the ball bounced, and today heroin is at or soon will be a major epidemic in every state in the country. Several state governors and chiefs of law enforcement have already officially declared heroin epidemics in their areas.
“Our earlier studies showed that people taking prescription painkillers thought of themselves as different from those who used heroin,” Cicero said. “We heard over and over again, ‘At least I’m not taking heroin.’ Obviously, that’s changed.”
People may be surprised that a common street drug like heroin has become so acceptable in suburban and rural settings, Cicero said, adding that further studies “may shine light on the problem.”
“The overdose deaths and hospitalizations are symptoms of a problem that we really need to deal with,” he said. “You can’t effectively treat people or prevent addiction unless you know why they are taking drugs, and we don’t really have a handle on that yet. Unfortunately, the problem with heroin is it’s the most powerful opiate ever created, and even if people think they are being careful, it can kill.”
Here at Novus Medical Detox Center, we’re fully aware of the increase in heroin addiction, heroin overdoses, and the need for better heroin detox across the country. The Novus medical heroin detox protocols include an individually designed program, 24/7 medical supervision in a comfortable, home-like environment with great food, special IV’s that hydrate and replace essential nutrients, natural herbs and supplements and effective medications as needed.
If you or anyone you care about is suffering from a heroin dependence, or dependence on any prescription opiate painkillers, call Novus right away, and get all your questions answered.
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