Heroin Users 21 and Under

HeroinHeroin users look different these days especially since many of them are under the age of 21. The Foundation For a Drug-Free World says addicts have been known to be as young as nine years old. In addition, the age range of 12 to 17 increased 300 percent between 1995 and 2002 for users of heroin. Part of the appeal is its low cost, and options other than the needle being available because heroin can be sniffed or smoked. There is a certain appeal with not having to inject the drug since needle use can lead to HIV infection. Heroin is derived from opium, which is sold globally.

Heroin users who are under 21 are not typical addicts. Standing on the corner, seemingly oblivious to surroundings, and puffy faces and hands are images of the past. Today’s under-21 addicts can be sitting right at home, unsuspected. The Foundation For a Drug-Free World states some young addicts can fit in with everyone else by being intelligent, stylish and playing video games. Previous stereotypes are not the norm anymore.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH) reports that from age 12 and up in 2011, there were 4.2 million Americans who had tried heroin at least once. An estimated 23 percent became addicts. Whether heroin is smoked, sniffed, inhaled or injected, it reaches the brain very quickly. Users who inject the drug feel a rush, dry mouth, skin warmth with a flushed feeling; extremities get heavy and mental slowness ensues. Next comes the nodding. Those who use heroin other ways have the same experience without the initial rush.

Opiate pain medications such as Vicodin and Oxycontin have similar effects. They can be gateway drugs since many youth report crushing the prescribed drugs to snort or inject them, inspiring them to make the jump to heroin. The illegal drug is cheaper and easier to acquire than prescription drugs. Heroin users under the age of 21 at one time would not have been a consideration. 

In 2008, there was a surge of nine-year-old heroin users in Dallas, Texas. A mix that preteens called “cheese” was popular. Cheese consists of black-tar heroin diluted with crushed Tylenol PM or other over-the-counter sleep medication. The nine to 10-year-old addicts are not alone; older teens also use “cheese.” Cheese heroin is known to cost only $1.00 a line. Being young does not exclude one from experiencing withdrawal symptoms, such as night sweats, body aches, headaches and aching bones. Foundation For A Drug-Free World states dealers entice youth by telling them the drug will make them cool and fit in.

Drug War Facts reported in 2011 some of the known areas where heroin use is rampant are from Washington D.C. to California and down south. The drug comes from Mexico, Asia, Afghanistan and Colombia. 

Heroin use was overpowering cities in the 1960s, but slowed in popularity in the 1970s. It is a drug thought to be from the past, but these days, youth under the age of 21 appear to have developed a taste for heroin.

By Dada Ra

Sources:

Guardian Liberty Voice

PBS

Drug Free World

Drug Abuse

NPR

Drug War Facts 

ABC News

NY Times