The Heroin Epidemic sweeping the nation is a considerable cause for concern. More people than ever are overdosing or dying from opioid drug use, particularly heroin. The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene released a report citing Drug and Alcohol-Related Intoxication Death statistics in 2014. Of particular significance is the fact that in Maryland alone, the number of heroin-related deaths increased from around 250 in 2011 to 578 in 2015- that’s over a 100% increase in just 3 years. Here are some of the facts about heroin use and abuse.
- It Probably Isn’t Just Heroin. Most drug users expect the heroin they buy to be cut with certain compounds. In March of 2015, the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) released an alert identifying the narcotic drug fentanyl as a major threat to public health. Much of the heroin found on the streets is cut with fentanyl, which is a much stronger opiate drug. When you take heroin, you have no idea how much of this or other substances are in it, and are basically playing russian roulette with a high risk of overdose.
- Maryland is cracking down on heroin-related offenses. Possession of misdemeanor amount of heroin carry a penalty of up to 4 years in jail and a possible $25,000 fine. Bringing heroin into Maryland is a felony offense, and can cost you up to 25 years in jail, and $50,000 in fines. With each repeated offense, these penalties can double. Further, sale of heroin in Maryland carries even steeper consequences. For more information, see http://statelaws.findlaw.com/maryland-law/maryland-heroin-laws.html.
- Long-term heroin use seriously damages the brain and body. The white matter of the brain, which is responsible for decision-making, behavior regulation, and stress responses, can be considerably deteriorated, causing a reduced capacity for those functions. This means much of what is required for basic daily functioning, or for maintaining relationships or jobs, can be noticeably absent in long-term heroin users. Frequent intravenous use can lead to collapsed veins, and damaged heart and blood vessels. Heroin use can also lead to malnutrition, immune weakness, and reduced sexual functioning. It is extremely addictive, even after just one use, and produces severe dependence and tolerance, and the withdrawal symptoms are notoriously hard to get through. (For more information see http://www.drugfreeworld.org/drugfacts/heroin/long-term-effects.html and http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/what-are-long-term-effects-heroin-use).
- Heroin is no longer just an inner-city problem. Once mostly focused in areas of poverty, heroin has now made its way out into the suburbs. No one community is immune to or above this epidemic. Largely this shift has come from a primary addiction to prescription painkillers, which easily transitions to heroin use because of its lower price and increased availability. But, the stereotype of the heroin dealer or addict being from lower-class, dysfunctional minority communities largely needs changing– this shift being further proof that addiction is not a symptom of solely the environment you grew up in or what your background is. Anyone can become an addict.
- Methadone is NOT a cure for heroin addiction. Some studies have shown that methadone can negatively alter brain structure and function1, and can lead to addiction in itself. Further, methadone is basically a synthetic form of heroin. While it may be statistically more effective than abstinence-based recovery at keeping people off heroin, it essentially is just keeping addicts high. None of the underlying mental, emotional, or spiritual issues are addressed in most methadone maintenance programs, so there is no actual recovery.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from a heroin addiction, there is help, and a way of life that will return you to being whole and happy. Call the admissions team at Serenity Acres today to get help.
- Norwegian Institute of Public Health. “Long-term methadone treatment can affect nerve cells in brain.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 August 2012. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/08/120815082707.htm