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Heroin Effects: Why is Heroin Use on the Rise in High Schools?

Heroin effects the body the same way as opioid prescription painkillers such as OxyContin, Percocet or Vicodin. But unlike prescription drugs, heroin is often cheaper and easier to obtain. Heroin effects more than the stereotypical impoverished, urban narcotic user. It’s no longer seen as the hard-core street drug it was in the 1960s. In fact, there has been a dramatic shift in heroin users in the past 50 years. Today, studies are showing that heroin use is reaching epidemic proportions and is more commonly affecting suburban, middle class youth. In the 1960s, people who abused heroin reported that it was the first drug they abused. Today, 75% of people who began abusing heroin report first abusing prescription painkillers. (JAMA Psychiatry)

So why is heroin use on the rise in high schools? Heroin effects the body the same way as opioid prescription painkillers such as OxyContin, Percocet or Vicodin. But unlike prescription drugs, heroin is often cheaper and easier to obtain. So when their prescription runs out or their painkiller supply stops, heroin is what the youth are turning to once their drug habits develop. And yes, even those as young as high school. It’s important to note that heroin is not just injected. It looks like white or brown powder or a sticky black substance that can also be smoked or snorted. And according to the U.S. Department of Justice, deaths due to heroin overdose has increased nationally has much as 25% in a recent given year.

In an interesting Op-Ed piece by Judge Kirsten Nielsen Hartig, she explains that the average age of a heroin user is under 21 years old, and that many started their drug use habit with legally prescribed painkillers from their doctors. She states that 85 percent of the teens who become addicted to heroin, first abused opioid painkillers. Drugs that parents think are being safely prescribed to their teens could be a gateway drug to heroin abuse. The most alarming statistic is that “70 percent of all young heroin addicts become addicted to prescription pills and then heroin as a result of a sports injury.” This is especially disturbing since we encourage youth involvement in sports to keep them away from drugs.

So what are some ways to be more vigilant? Here is a great link to more information about heroin effects and addiction symptoms. If you are concerned about the drugs that your doctor is prescribing to your teen or the potential risks of abuse, reach out to an addiction professional and stay informed.

2 Comments
  1. This is the question I hear a lot and I often wonder if it the focus on the war on drugs is being fought from the wrong end. Our children are at risk and the problem is getting worse and I see more kids turning to drugs to escape.

    http://nwmonarch.com/war-drugs-focused-wrong-end/

    Thanks for the post.. Ed

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Ed. And thanks for the link to the interesting article. You make a good point. Drug abuse among youth is increasing and at alarming rates. And we are dealing with a part of the population that is vulnerable and comes with specific challenges in regards to treatment.

      Thanks for sharing!
      Dr. D.

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