Lethal weapon: heroin’s comeback

Relieve pain, depression and anxiety with one simple step.

All you have to do is use heroin.

It really isn’t that expensive, with some selling for as little as $5-10 — far cheaper than other drugs, like oxycodone, which goes for about $20-40 per tablet. And, it’s everywhere, says DEA Special Agent James Hunt in a February article in The Week.  “It is being used by the young, middle-ages, even cops’ kids and soccer moms.”

The evidence of its prevalence is further established in Vermont Governor Peter Schumlin’s State of the State address in January. “What started as an OxyContin and prescription-drug-addiction problem in Vermont has now grown into a full-blown crises,” he said in the address, entirely dedicated to the comeback of the potentially lethal drug.  He went on to say that the state, the second least populous in the U.S., has seen deaths from overdoses nearly double since 2012.

“In every corner of our state, heroin and opiate-drug addiction threatens us,” he added.

Much of the problem to the rise of the drug comes from its accessibility and price. According to DEA Special Agent Jack Riley, the drug has changed to accommodate those who wouldn’t normally approach it for fear of a needle. While some users use the common form of injecting the substance, others can purchase a type that they can smoke or snort.

The statistics behind usage are astounding. About 77% of recent heroin users say they switched to the drug after first trying prescription painkillers, reports a recent article in Rolling Stone dedicated to the drug. And about 23% of those who use heroin will become addicted, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Even more devastating is that overdoses have now surpassed motor-vehicle fatalities as the leading cause of accidental death in the nation. While many of these are not connected to heroin, the frightening rise in usage of drugs continues to soar.

From 2000-09, prescriptions of painkillers increased 48%. This percentage is worsened in another statistic from The Week, which says that an estimated 6.8 million Americans abuse pills — using them to create a heroin-like high.

There is hope in rehabilitation programs but many centers have waiting lists that can go on for weeks or months. For some, that may be too late.

Wilson Compton, deputy director at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, cites naloxone as an effective drug for use in such cases. Death from heroin overdose comes from the body being so relaxed it simply forgets to breathe. Naloxone reverses these effects and “is virtually 100% effective,” Compton said. “If this medication is administered [properly], they wake up within a minute or two.”

“It’s remarkable,” he continued. “You save their life.”

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