In February is Valentines Day, a time when many people express their feelings to those they love. For some, there is a very harmful relationship going on and it is all consuming. This relationship is destructive in nature, very controlling and costly. Who is this unrelenting and ruthless partner? Heroin.
Heroin addiction is on the rise, especially with our teenage and young adult population. Law enforcement officials across the country are reporting an increase in arrests in connection to heroin use. Escalated use in the heart of America has the attention of many concerned parents, treatment providers and counselors.
Una Bennett, the director of Preferred Family Healthcare in Jefferson City, Missouri recently stated, "Close to 70% of calls requesting admission into PFH are reporting heroin addiction. The typical age range is 26-35 for the Jefferson City Missouri City area. In the last six months cocaine and hallucinogens are on the decline for those being admitted."
This relationship is not just happening to the typical stereo-typed homeless ‘junkie’ but is also working its way into the lives of the young people in our community. Heroin is a very addictive opiate drug which causes a relaxing and dulling effect along with a sense of euphoria. It is synthesized from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of the opium poppy plant. It can be injected, snorted or smoked.
Elizabeth Burns, a licensed psychologist and program director at Booneville Valley Hope said, "We have seen a significant increase in heroin addiction over the past several years and last year’s trend continued. Most of our heroin addicts are young, between the ages of 18 and 26, although we see other opiate addicts as well as heroin users at all ages."
I had an interesting conversation with a Jefferson City man last week (who wishes to remain anonymous) about his experience with heroin addiction. He said, "I began using drugs over 15 years ago and in the last 4 or 5 years I have seen a definate rise in heroin addiction, especially among young people. When I started using heroin it resulted in addiction quite rapidly. By the third time I was already feeling ‘sick’ when coming down and my habit went to $200 a day within two weeks time. I only shot up a few times, I mainly snorted it. In my mind I felt snorting it was some how safer... besides I don’t like needles.
Some say the rise of heroin use is because it’s cheaper than other drugs. It can come in capsules called ‘beans’ and are about $5 apiece. But what people need to understand is that it doesn’t take long before you have to have quite a few of those to even feel the effect.”
He goes on to say, "Dealers are mixing heroin with different types of sleep aids in order to intensify the effect or ‘stretch out the dope’ and make more of it. This can also cause it to be very deadly. I am glad to be off heroin today and to have medication that helps me to stay off it. It allows me to not be sick while I work on myself in order to recover."
Some estimations of the present day heroin being manufactured can be upwards of 60% pure, making it much more potent than compared to heroin used in the 1970’s. It is another reason why the high can be easily achieved by snorting it. Injecting it allows it to cross the blood brain barrier instantly, which results in an immediate high. China White is a common street term used for heroin.
Many treatment centers now offer a medical managed detox from heroin addiction by utilizing various medications. Suboxone, which is an opioid medication used to treat opiate addiction, reduces cravings and withdrawal symptoms by binding to the same receptors as other opiate drugs like oxycodone, morphine and vicodin (hydrocodone). Detox medications should always be taken as directed and managed by a physician.
When a person first gets involved in a romantic relationship and falls in love, they don’t usually don’t stop and think – this person may beat me up or abuse me verbally. When someone picks up their first cigarette, they don’t stop and think – I may have to get on oxygen or get chemo for lung cancer.
When someone starts courting heroin, they don’t stop and think – I may end up spending all my money or become violently sick. No, the person who starts to use heroin doesn’t think of that because they no intention of letting it get that far. They just start out in a relationship that feels very good - but heroine addiction winds up being a tragic love affair.
The key to helping our communities deal with the rise of heroin Addiction in our community is awareness, education and availability of treatment. Becoming aware of the signs and symptoms of opiate addiction and what to do in order to deal with it is important information all concerned citizens should obtain. Parents need to understand and learn how to provide support and resources without enabling the user.
Angie Carter, CRADC, SAP is a certified alcohol and drug counselor in the State of Missouri and DOT certified Substance Abuse Professional. She is in private practice with her husband at Carter Counseling & Consulting Services in Central Missouri. Angie primarily sees clients in office, but is also available for telephone coaching and/or consultation. Click here to contact Angie with your questions or feedback.