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The Opiate Epidemic and the Increase In Heroin Abuse

Opioid drugs have made negative impacts on towns all across the nation. These drugs are in every large city and even the smallest of towns. I hear it everyday from addicts and family of addicts who reach out to me. I've seen it first hand in Ocean County NJ, where I live. The sad truth is that it's bad everywhere, and not going away anytime soon. This problem is not biased. Sure, some areas have more usage and deaths than others, but every city and town is dealing with an opiate problem. It has reached epidemic proportions over the past decade and there is no direct answer to solve the problem. It is difficult to stop the abuse as prescription painkillers and heroin are in the same class of opiates and provide the same euphoric high.

Around the country, we are starting to see painkiller abuse drop. Many people are applauding the efforts of local and state governments who have been pro-active in setting up educational programs to teach the public about the dangers of abusing opioid based painkillers. They have implemented prescription drug monitoring programs that have stopped patients from being able to “doctor shop.” This monitoring system also prevents “dirty doctors” from writing too many prescriptions. Monitoring programs have shut down many “pill mill” operations around the country.

Here is where the equation becomes very tricky. We have made such a great impact on reducing the amount of pills on the black market and curbing the efforts of patients and doctors from continuing their illegal activities. Though it's still a major problem, it's not the same problem it used to be. The lack of pills on the street has raised their prices dramatically. It leaves many abusers unable to afford their habit. They aren't getting clean because they can't get their pills, they are turning to crime to support their habit.  Petty crimes, home break-ins, stealing from friends and family, and even pharmacy robberies are on the rise.  Removing painkillers from the equation doesn't cure addiction.  When addicts ultimately can not find any more pills, they are turning to heroin.

Popular prescription painkillers such as Vicodin, Oxycontin and Percocet are now selling for more than a $1 per mg. Most abusers can not support their habit for long and make the switch to heroin as a cheap and easy alternative.  Addicts who were taking 10 or more 5mg Oxy instant release pills which cost around $50-$75 (for the 10 pills) on the street are turning to heroin.  A $5 bag of heroin can provide the same feelings as those 10 pills, but comes with a steep price; one's health.  Curbing the painkillers has only increased heroin use across the country.

During the mid 2000's there was a huge increase of painkillers being over-prescribed and sold on the black market. Millions of Americans became addicted to these drugs. The Government figured out ways to cut down on the over dispensing of these medications but the addictions did not go away.

Being a recovering addict myself, I understand the issues at hand.  Addicts can monitor their addiction easier with painkillers as each pill is the exactly the same dosage.  With pharmaceutical medications you know exactly how many mg you are ingesting every time you take them. With heroin these days, it is a game of Russian Roulette. One bag can be potent while the next can be weak. Gauging your dosages is a dangerous game that is landing thousands of Americans in body bags.


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