Due to the recent passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman and the increase of heroin use across the country, many public officials are beginning to wonder if the addicting drug has become the new epidemic and are doing their best to stop its rapid rise with our nation’s youth.
The drug has become more popular lately because it is so inexpensive (especially with today’s economy) and can be purchased on the street for as little as $10 to $20.
Investigators say that prescription drug abuse is often a gateway to heroin, and have been encouraging parents to talk to their teens about the risks of heroin use and misusing prescription drugs. Police officials have begun to develop myriad groups (medical professionals, school officials, faith groups, human services personnel and community organizations) to help fight the impact the drug has with adolescents.
It also doesn’t help young naïve teens reject the drug when they hear about celebrities that they admire such as Robert Downey Jr. and Russell Crowe taking part in the addiction. Even Angelina Jolie and Samuel L. Jackson have used heroin at one time or another– so what’s the harm, right?
Unfortunately many adolescents are easily influenced by their famous role models and resort to the “monkey-see-monkey-do” attitude.
Peer pressure and environmental factors can be other motives that lead a teen to use heroin for the first time.
Many turn to the drug because they want to be accepted by their friends and yearn to feel like they belong. Some users who want an escape from depression and anxiety turn to the drug because it gives them a feeling of safety and warmth. Often teens who are “loners” use heroin to fill the void that is present because of the lack of emotional support from their parents at home.
Drug abuse has also been frequently linked to genetics and it has been proven that someone with family members who struggle with mental health problems is at a higher risk of developing an addictive habit.
So what is the answer? How do we prevent our youth from taking part in this growing epidemic?
The first step is educating parents and teens about the drug. Agencies have organized community meetings to educate parents on the street names of heroin, what it looks like and how the habit is supported. Public service announcements have also been implemented in several states including Ohio, which will include personal stories by those who have struggled with heroin.
Furthermore, detoxification is extremely important when dealing with a heroin addict. The earlier the heroin abuse is identified, the more effective the treatment will be on the individual. The main goal of detoxification is to alleviate withdrawal symptoms, helping patients adjust to a drug-free status. Methadone and buprenorphine are medications used to treat heroin addiction, and when combined with behavioral therapies the results can be very successful.
Officials are also cracking down on enforcement and prosecution, clearing the streets of heroin abusers and setting an example for young adults who are considering trying the drug.
These drastic efforts still won’t be able to curb all heroin addicts, but will hopefully decrease the number of users and educate many young people about its terrible life-threatening side effects.
Editorial by Amy Nelson