Drug addiction in America has come to have many faces in today’s day and age. The dated stereotypes of drug addicts typically embodied vagrants drinking out of paper bags and sleeping in alleyways. In today’s world, drug addiction has become prevalent across every demographic. It does not discriminate against any race, ethnicity, gender or social status. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heroin addiction, specifically, has seen an increase among women and higher income citizens.
According to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published in July of 2015, heroin use has increased 63 percent over this last decade. From 2002 to 2004, the rate of use was 1.6 out of 1,000 people ages 12 years and older. From 2011 to 2013, that rate raised to 2.6 people out of 1,000. Along with the increase in heroin use, there has also been an increase in heroin-related overdoses, which almost doubled between 2011 and 2013.
Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said that heroin use has been increasing at a frightening rate, primarily driven by the prescription painkiller epidemic and the higher accessibility of cheap heroin. Dr. Frieden said, “Those two factors are driving the increase, and will drive the strategies we need to pursue to turn this around.”
The CDC report found that people who are most at risk of heroin addiction are 18 to 25 year olds, males, whites, who make less than $20,000 a year, are uninsured and recipients of Medicaid. The largest increases seen in the report were among women, people who make higher incomes and those who are insured.
The CDC said that the gap in heroin abuse among these groups of people has lessened over the last decade. “We’re seeing an increase throughout many segments of society,” said Frieden. The increase in heroin use among these groups could result from a rise in prescription painkiller abuse, which state governments have taken measures to fight over the years.
Brad Lander, an addiction medicine specialist at Ohio State University, commented on the prescription drug epidemic and the efforts by authorities to crackdown on the problem. Lander commented, “[Authorities] thought by shutting down the pill mills, they thought they were shutting down the addiction problem. Instead, people just shifted over to heroin, which is easier to get and cheaper.” The CDC report bolsters this statement, revealing that roughly 45 percent of heroin users were also addicted to prescription painkillers between 2011 and 2013 — double the rate recorded between 2002 and 2004. Prescription painkiller addicts are 40 times more likely to abuse heroin than the general population, according to the report. Nearly all heroin users in the report also abused at least one other drug during the past year and almost two thirds of heroin users consumed three or more other drugs.
Lander has been working in addiction treatment for 30 years and believes that resorting to addiction treatment over law enforcement is the most effective way to reduce the harm caused by heroin abuse. CDC officials believe that states could play a large role in fighting the heroin epidemic by improving accessibility to addiction treatment centers. They have also urged states to make prescription drug monitoring programs easier to use for pharmacists and doctors and review their Medicaid and worker’s compensation programs to identify wrongful prescribing practices.
The federal government has been working on implementing prescribing guidelines for treating patients with chronic pain in hopes of reducing prescription drug abuse, Frieden said. Meanwhile, other actions have been taken to better monitor prescribing behaviors of doctors and ensure prescriptions for treating chronic are prescribed appropriately.
The heroin and prescription opioid epidemics have been ongoing problem on local and national levels. Sovereign Health Group helps those with opioid addictions recover with the help of effective inpatient and outpatient programs. Sovereign treats patients across the nation struggling with addiction, mental health disorders and dual diagnosis conditions. If you know someone who is struggling with opioid addiction and is in need of treatment, please do not hesitate to call us at 888-530-4614. Our admissions helpline is open 24/7 and one of our treatment specialists will assist you in finding the right treatment option.
Written by Benjamin Creekmore, Sovereign Health Group writer