Over the past 40 years, the face of heroin has been one of poverty and mental illness. It was a drug that many veterans of the late 60's early 70's returning from Vietnam found comforting. It was always found in poor inner city areas with high crime rates. This has been the norm of heroin use for decades until now. Statistics on heroin-related deaths released by Connecticut's chief medical examiner and from interviews of people on the front lines of treatment and law enforcement have painted a brand new picture of the “typical” heroin user.
In Connecticut, the face of heroin is a white suburban male. Of course there are cases of all ages, sexes and races but the most common heroin-overdose category are they young suburban males. A large majority of the blame of these overdoses start with prescription medications. Whether the user is prescribed these medications legally but are victim of a flawed healthcare system that is over-prescribing powerful narcotic painkillers at an alarming rate, or if they abused them rereationally, the gateway to heroin is prescription painkillers. It is often the same story for most of these young men. They take narcotic painkillers to get high, starting off on a small dose and gradually increasing their dose over time. Their addiction isn't too expensive at first but is soon too much of a financial burden to continue and more often than not, find themselves switching to the powerful, more potent, and deadly heroin.
The heroin epidemic is booming all across the United States leaving no state untouched. In fact deaths from drug overdoses outnumber deaths from motor vehicle accidents in 29 states and Washington D.C. Connecticut is one of the least hit having the 13th lowest drug overdose rate in the United States with 10.1 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 residents. The state has a total of 189 deaths related to heroin overdose in 2013. In comparison to where I reside in Ocean County, New Jersey which has over 117 overdoses in 2013. The problem even if considered smaller when regarding comparative numbers is still largely a dangerous trend and one that does not seem to be getting any better any time soon.
Many states have had their lawmakers try to make a difference. States like Ohio and Kentucky have made stricter laws for drug traffickers, have implemented state-wide prescription medication databases and have increased the aid that Medicare can provide regarding treatment facilities. When the public demands that actions need to be taken in order to save their residents, changes will be made. Attend your local townhall meetings and express your concern for the opiate epidemic. Contact your state Congressman and ask them how they are helping in the fight. States need to be educating our youth of the dangers of these dangers drugs. It needs to be spoken about in the household and be something that everyone is educated on. If you think this will not affect your family and you ignore it, statistics say your chances of this hurting your family are very high.