In recent years, the United States of America has focused its concerns on the increase in abuse of pharmaceutical painkillers like oxicodone. However, according to the staggering amount of deaths caused by overdoses of heroin, this street drug may still be a larger issue. With thousands of deaths per year attributed to heroin overdose, the rates are almost five times as numerous as they were about fifteen years ago, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is even more frightening is that the majority of this growth happened in the late 2000s, meaning that usage is drastically increasing each year. Fortunately, there are ways of combating the rise of this dangerous drug.
To begin with, finding out areas that may be high in heroin use can help law enforcers and medical organizations make prevention strategies that work best with each place in specific. Something that is also puzzling experts is that the dominant race and ethnicity of heroin users has been changing. Around a decade ago, middle aged and elder African Americans were the greatest users of the drug. However, that has been replaced by white individuals ranging from early adults to middle aged men. This shift has occurred in recent years, and shows no sign of stopping. In regards to sex, there are approximately four times as many male deaths as female deaths. Still, both genders saw massive rises in use of heroin, with three times as many woman dying from overdoses and four times as many men dying from overdoses as in 2000. Needless to say, the use of this destructive drug rose throughout the nation, but it has become particularly popular in the Midwest.
The swift change in demographics has certainly been a shock to researchers, but they have not been able to gather enough data to hazard a guess as to the exact reason. As of now, experts have stated simply that they do not understand the cause behind this. However, one indicator could be that the overall use of heroin has more than doubled in recent years, going from almost a two hundred thousand users to almost four hundred thousand users. Although this does not answer the question of why heroin use is becoming more common in certain demographics, experts have also noted that the law enforcement cracking down on prescription abuse has probably lead to increased use of heroin. After all, these drug abusers become addicted, and they often want another source when their doctors do not prescribe their normal pharmaceuticals to them. Again, this could be another source of the overall heroin use growing.
Professionals from organizations such as the Drug-Free America Foundation have also offered their own opinions on the rise in heroin overdosing. They speculate that, ever since the drug became available as an inhalant, people have been less reluctant to try it. Not only this, but the legalization of minor drugs, like marijuana, has made other more serious drugs seem like less of a problem. Not only this, but weed has been known to be a “gateway” drug. People start with it, but then progress to more dangerous and destructive drugs like heroin.
In order to fight heroin usage and overdoses, professionals have stated that more emphasis needs to be put on training medical practitioners on how to use naloxone, an antidote for overdoses. Even so, that is seen as more of a temporary fixer as opposed to a solution. In order to deal with the root causes, medical experts believe that more education regarding the masses is needed.