Heroin, an opiate made from poppies grown in Mexico and South America, once brought to mind visions of back-alley drug deals and junkies found dead with syringes hanging from their arms.
Today’s heroin addict looks like your neighbor’s sweet, bright-eyed daughter or the quarterback on the high school football team. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) report a rise in heroin use from nearly 373,000 in 2007 to approximately 669,000 in 2012.
Border agents find the drug hidden in tires, trunks, headrests, car seats and dashboards. They have found heroin strapped to small children, grandmothers, pregnant women and in strollers. The surge of heroin coming from Mexico grows as street gangs find huge markets for the drug in cities nationwide.
Heroin makes a comeback
Heroin addiction takes lives and destroys families in suburban neighborhoods, urban high rises and Bible Belt farm towns. Young people find the drug inexpensive, easy to find and instantly addictive.
In the past, the average age of a heroin addict at the time of death was 40-45. The average age of a heroin addict at the time of death has dropped to 18-25, which casts light on the extent of the heroin problem taking hold of American teens today.
Young people see heroin differently than in past decades. The drug now comes in capsules that users break open to release the heroin, which they snort. The drug comes in powder sold in baggies at schools, in malls, on streets and from homes across America.
In the past, heroin came as a tar-like substance that addicts cooked on spoons with citrus juice and then injected with a syringe. The drug was fairly expensive and finding it proved harder than it does now.
The cost of a heroin capsule averages $10, which makes it cheaper than popular pain pills like OxyContin, Vicodin, or oxycodone. They also sell for less than Xanax, Valium or Ativan, the most popular anti-anxiety prescriptions sold illegally to young people today.
It’s time for America to wake-up and stop this epidemic
Between 2007 and 2012, the number of people seeking help for heroin addiction climbed from 277,000 to 450,000. Deaths from heroin overdoses have staggered Health and Human Services, law enforcement and emergency room staffs in many states:
Massachusetts: The governor declared a state of emergency after health officials reported approximately 185 heroin related deaths since November 1, 2013. Even more frightening: This number does not include heroin related deaths in the state’s largest cities.
Connecticut: Heroin overdoses took 174 lives in 2012 and another 257 in 2013 (a 48% increase). More than 10,000 people sought help in drug rehabilitation centers in 2013, a significant increase over 2012’s 8,924.
Illinois: In Dupage County in 2012, 43 died of heroin overdoses. In 2013, the number of deaths climbed to 46, a 15-year old girl was the youngest victim. Illinois’ heroin problem consumes the entire state.
Louisiana: Statewide, 48 deaths caused by heroin happened in 2013. That equals three-times more than in 2012. So far in 2014, more heroin related deaths than the previous two years have occurred.
Colorado: 5 teenage boys died from heroin related overdoses in 2012 compared to 6 between 2000 and 2011.
The problem has spread from coast to coast at an alarmingly fast pace. Heroin ranks second to methamphetamine as the most used illegal substance in America. Stopping the influx of heroin from Mexico and Columbia, South America proves hard. Once authorities stop one source, others slip across the border.
Approximately 90% of the world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan. Little of this heroin comes to the United States but it still adversely affects the nation.
In Afghanistan, poppies grow on an estimated 516,000 acres of land. The sales of heroin, made from the poppies, fund the Taliban, the al Qaida and other terrorist groups like ISIS, which take responsibility for murdering thousands worldwide.
As American troops continue to withdraw from Afghanistan, the United Nations and other agencies fear that poppy cultivation will expand. An expansion will fund more terrorism around the world. In light of the recent deadly actions taken by the ISIS group, everyone should worry.
The time to wake-up and stop the deaths of children, loved ones and family from heroin has come. The nation has witnessed too many deaths at the hands of terrorists, in war and now to heroin.
Brian Hughes was inspired to write this article following the death of a 22-year-old friend who relapsed during a home pass to visit his family and died of a heroin overdose in his parent's bathroom after 9 months clean. You can reach Brian here.