In the United States and Canada, heroin use has skyrocketed in the past couple of years. The death of famous actor Philip Seymour Hoffman of a heroin overdose last year put heroin back in the spotlight; heroin addiction and overdose was a major problem in the 1990s (legendary grunge rock singer Kurt Cobain was a known addict and was high when he committed suicide by shotgun), and gradually decreased with the introduction of methamphetamine and cheap designer drugs in the 2000s. Heroin has made a major comeback throughout the world and shows no signs of slowing down.
The purity of street heroin has always been in contention. These days, however, Mexican and South American drug cartels have ramped up their heroin business and have been cutting the heroin with fentanyl and other substances to lower production costs. Heroin itself, without being cut with these substances, is still more potent today than it used to be.
This has essentially flooded the market with cheap, deadly heroin. Users overdose on it because they believe they are ingesting (shooting, snorting, smoking) the same amount that their tolerance level requires in order to get the same high as before – but since this heroin is cut with other substances and is more powerful, what the user thought was a regular dose is actually an overdose.
Not only that, but some of the heroin hitting the streets these days is being cut with substances like bath salts, baking soda, and crazy designer drugs that are being made in makeshift laboratories, usually someone’s basement or kitchen. No one knows the side effects of these substances, how they were made, or where they came from. This can create a dangerous situation, especially if someone has medical problems like a heart condition that can be exacerbated by ingesting a foreign chemical that they were unaware of taking.
Heroin is probably the most addictive drug there is next to nicotine, meth, and cocaine. In 2013 there were over 6,000 deaths attributed to heroin overdose in the United States alone, and that doesn’t count overdoses caused by prescription opiate painkillers like oxycodone. As heroin becomes more popular and available, these numbers will probably go up.
Heroin addiction not only affects the addict, it affects society as a whole. The individual and social cost of incarceration, health care and emergency costs, treatment and addiction counseling, overdose deaths, and the theft and other crime that occur due to heroin addiction can have wide ranging societal consequences. Everyone is affected by heroin addiction whether they like it or not. The best thing that we can do to stop it is through education outreach and social programs to stop it in its tracks.
Don’t play with your life. If you or someone you know is exhibiting signs of heroin addiction, seek help immediately. Even doing heroin once can cause the opiate receptors in the brain to light up and instantly crave the drug, or you could get heroin cut with another substance and end up overdosing. One time may end up being one time too many, and no one wants to have to pay that price – the ultimate price.