Throughout the 60’s to the 80’s, heroin was a popular drug. It took a back burner to the rise in popularity of cocaine between the 1990’s and 2000, used mostly by those who were from lower incomes who lived in the inner cities. However, heroin has made a dramatic comeback across the nation.
The number of deaths from heroin overdoses has climbed from under six thousand in 2000 to over eight thousand today. At this time, the use is not confined to one specific class and is spread out across the socioeconomic spectrum in the United States. Here to share his thoughts on the spread of addiction and how to keep your friends, family, and community safe from heroin use is Dr. Michael White, a pharmacist from the UConn School of Pharmacy.
We all saw the horrible scourge that heroin was when it first become popular in the sixties. It led to thousands of overdose deaths and was one of the major contributors to HIV and AIDS due to unsafe needle practices. As the issue grew, there were major health initiatives that became popular. In addition, the low cost of crack cocaine helped to suppress the use of heroin in drug addicts and new drug abusers for almost two decades.
Because of the faltering popularity of heroin, when the opiate epidemic came back in full force in the 2000s, the U.S. did not have any controls set up for prescription drugs such as OxyContin, Vicodin, morphine, fentanyl, or hydromorphone. These drugs were dispensed widely, and prescribed to anyone who had any consistent pain issues. Due to the lack of warnings regarding their addictive nature, many patients became addicted quickly.
Many other patients shared their prescriptions with family members or took them to parties. Eventually, the government and the drug companies began to focus on prescription drug abuse and to crack down with new regulations. Unfortunately, as fewer doctors were willing to hand out prescriptions, more people began to turn to street drugs to get their opiate fix. Reports began to show that people who abused opiate prescriptions were now forty times more likely to use heroin.
This spurred further regulation, with abuse prevention technology that made prescription opiates harder to become addicted to. Pharmacies began to include other drugs in their opiates that would prevent users from getting high from larger doses. Regulators across the country began to go after physicians who were overprescribing, and the government began to track opiate prescriptions.
Education began to circulate, informing families that their opioid medications should not be shared and that leftover prescription drugs needed to be disposed of properly. Prevention pushers provided information, calling on citizens to inform their children about the dangers of opiate use and to keep an eye out for strange behavior that could indicate an addiction.
Further suggestions came about recommending that anyone who is addicted to prescription opiates or heroin seek treatment. Dr. Michael White states that you don’t have to hit rock bottom before you can overdose and die, as you can get a bad batch or combine your drugs with another that causes you to die. He states that people with friends who use opiates should never let them sleep off their high, as they could easily stop breathing and die.
In addition, he suggests that people who use heroin or know those who do use opiates should look into purchasing naloxone. Naloxone can bring someone out of an overdose immediately. Residents of Connecticut can purchase both naloxone and clean needles at a variety of community pharmacies across the state.