People love to argue about addiction. The uniformed and the inexperienced claim heroin addiction is a problem of the lower social class and confined to the stereotypical "scum of the earth" -- unemployed, victims of bad upbringings, high school dropouts, and prostitutes.
Heroin addiction was considered the scourge of the urban poor. That is simply not true, and now studies and statistics prove that heroin addiction is prevalent in youth of all economic levels, even the kids of modern suburbia.
In America, suburban teens are turning to heroin in greater number than ever before, after first getting their habit going with prescription painkillers. These people are young, privileged and seem "to have everything to live for," yet they fall into heroin addiction after developing a dependence on prescription opiates.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), heroin use in America is up 79 percent between 2007 and 2012. SAMHSA reports initiations to heroin have increased 80 percent among 12- to 17-year-olds since 2002. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found teenagers have reasonably easy access to heroin. 29.7 percent of 12th graders say that it is easy to obtain. Even 8th graders (12.6 percent) say that they can obtain heroin. Of course these statistics are shocking to older generations that considered heroin hardcore and a drug used only by the criminal element. Looking at the NSDUH information, it is estimated that in the last year, about 91,000 persons over the age of 12 used heroin for the first time.
But, it's no wonder that a generation weaned on prescription opiates would soon turn to heroin. The cost ratio is stark. According to streetrx.com, a user-contributed site that collates “the latest street prices for prescription drugs,” the standard black market cost of Oxycodone is approximately one dollar per milligram. By contrast, heroin is sold either as individual doses, usually in $10 "bags" or by weight. It can go for as low as $50 dollars a bundle (approximately one gram).
Generally, the following holds true about the cost of street heroin:
The average cost of a single dose of heroin (purchased on the street) is approximately $10 – $20.
The approximate average cost for a half gram is generally about $40 - $60.
The approximate average cost for one gram is generally about $60 - $100.
A heroin dependent individual who uses regularly and continually may pay $150 – $200 per day in order to support his or her habit.
A young brain is not yet fully developed. As a result, the brains of young people may be more susceptible to drug abuse and addiction than adult brains.
One of the major deficits in the thinking of teenagers, particularly in early adolescence, is in evaluating the probabilities of a risk - luck vs. reality. Beatrix A. Hamburg, a child psychiatrist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, says ...
''By age 10 or so, children enter a risky period when they do lots of exploring at a time when their cognitive development has not yet reached the point where they can make judgments that will keep them out of trouble. They cannot really comprehend laws of probability. And they also have ideas of invulnerablity that persuade them that they can safely take a known risk...
''Often, if a teenager does something several times - like not breaking his neck when he does something stupid, or not getting pregnant after sex without contraceptives - he will assume it becomes less risky each time, not more so."
(Daniel Goleman, "Teen-Age Risk-Taking: Rise In Deaths Prompts New Research Effort,"
The New York Times, November 24 1987)Tom Dietzler, an addiction counselor at Caron Pennsylvania Young Adult Program, stresses that addiction is a powerful disease -- one that can cause good kids from loving families to make horrible decisions.
"They have no fear of death," Dietzler says of heroin addicts. "They will do anything they can to get their drug. They become vicious as they progress into their addiction."
Heroin gives users a euphoric high, followed by an intense physical withdrawal that addicts describe as 10 times worse than the flu. To avoid the pain of withdrawal, the heroin addict structures life around getting the next dose.
Abbie Hoff, also a counselor at Caron, says that the addict's life quickly begins to revolve around the same, never-ending questions: "'When am I going to get the drug again?' 'How am I going to get the drug again?' 'What do I need to do to get the drug again?' The obsession begins and all they want is the drug."
(Andrew Sullivan. "Hooked On Heroin: Young People Battle Addiction."
ABC News. October 28, 2010)
Many adults think heroin (opiate) rehab is a relatively short process. It is unrealistic of parents of a heroin addict to think that the patient can begin a healing process in 30 days. To complicate matters, addicts themselves often feel that they are cured after a few weeks of sobriety, but quickly relapse once they leave treatment. It's one reason that 78 percent of heroin addicts in treatment have been through rehab before, often multiple times, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
For those lucky enough to find and to afford treatment, how much is enough? Experts say there is no universal timeline: every patient is different.
"We treat people individually here," says Hoff. "Some people take two to three months just for the brain to start healing, before they can even look at their core issues."
And, successful treatment for a young addict usually involves the entire family. In cases in which a patient fails in treatment, it's often because the family doesn't get involved, or the family doesn't want to take a look at their own issues they might have.
The Bottom Line
A survey of 9,000 patients at treatment centers around the country found that 90 percent of heroin users were white men and women. Most were relatively young — their average age was 23. And three-quarters said they first started not with heroin but with prescription opioids like OxyContin.
Here is a brief bio of Emmanuel Donato, a 33-year-old former heroin addict, one-time narcotics dealer, and ex-convict who served two years for felony drug sale and possession and who managed to survive from an overdose and being robbed at gunpoint while he sold heroin to fuel a habit that had spiraled out of control. The following is taken from Paul Grondahl's "Surviving Heroin Addiction and Rebuilding a Young Life" in the Albany timesunion.com on September 8, 2014.
Unlike the other drugs Donato had abused to get high since middle school — alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, Oxycodone and other prescription opioid pills — heroin felt like swallowing a ball of fire.
"As soon as you touch that pin, within a millisecond you get the rush," he said. "It starts as a warm, tingling sensation at your feet and then moves to your head and it's like fire pouring through you and then you're floating on top of the world. It's just warm and you're feeling no pain."
His drug addiction was hiding right in plain sight.
He lived with his parents in a semi-rural rustic farmhouse and managed to hide it from them. He used heroin while he worked and kept it a secret from employers. He did not share his clandestine life as a heroin dealer and an addict with his friends who were not in the drug scene.
He blended in with other twentysomethings: Tanned and well-muscled, clean-shaven, close-cropped sandy hair, Aeropostale baseball cap, tight Aero t-shirt, designer jeans and white Nike sneakers.
Injecting heroin for Donato, who attended Guilderland public schools, was as much an everyday fixture of the suburban landscape where he lived as were ubiquitous fast-food drive-throughs, multiplex cinemas, strip malls and a car culture.
He shot up in his car in the parking lot of Crossgates Mall, or in the stall of a public restroom in Dunkin' Donuts or Taco Bell or Price Chopper.
His drug kit did not attract attention. He carried a bottle of water and heroin in tiny clear plastic bags the size of a thumbnail. He poured two bags of the whitish powder into the bottle cap. He snapped off the cotton end of a Q-tip and with the bare end mixed the equivalent of half a sugar packet with a few drops of water and stirred it into a milky, watery slurry.
He pulled from his jeans pocket a syringe and needle he bought in bulk at CVS, used the snapped-off cotton to filter out impurities and drew the liquid narcotic into the syringe.
He clenched his right fist and found a prominent vein on the fleshy inside crook of his elbow. Toned and athletic, his veins stood out. He never needed a tourniquet.
While the fiery rush only lasted about five minutes, the pain-free, floating high stretched out languidly for three hours or more when Donato first started using heroin.
But it's an addiction of diminishing returns. Soon, the rush got shorter and less intense for him. The fire did not burn as hot. The high did not last as long. It took more heroin — one bag fairly quickly ramped up to two and three and four bags — for Donato to reach that euphoric level of carefree buoyancy.
"You just keep chasing and chasing that rush and after awhile, you never get there," Donato said.
Donato was locked in a vicious cycle of addiction. Within a matter of months, he increased the amount and frequency of his drug use, not so much to achieve a high but to manage the horrible side effects of withdrawal.
"Imagine the worst flu you've ever had and multiply that by 10," Donato said.
Even when he managed to avoid hellish stomach pains and a plague of fever and chills, he said he felt "heavy and slow" when he came down. As the high faded, he showed an unwanted junkie's profile, "the nodding off and drooling and not caring."
His heroin addiction grew costly, too, and he was spending $500 a week and more chasing the rush. But the cash he made from sporadic, low-paying jobs as a construction laborer could not keep pace and he was sliding into the horrible sickness of withdrawal more often, always jonesing for another fix.
Read the rest of Emmanuel Donato's story here. It is a must read for parents and their young children alike: Click here: http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Surviving-heroin-addiction-and-rebuilding-a-young-5738849.php#page-1.
If you think your child is experiencing opioid dependency or addiction, he or she probably is. Get treatment immediately and don't ignore the symptoms you find. Nothing is as destructive as this disease, and once the addiction occurs, the nightmares begin. Recovery requires strong wills and family support.
Above all, never think a child is "above" heroin addiction. "Straight-A" students, talented athletes, beautiful and loving young people of every kind are at risk. As author Oliver Marcus says, "And it doesn't matter if you're a good or a bad person, once you become addicted to drugs. What happens next is inevitable. It's a natural process that happens in everyone's brain, once the drugs take over. So don't ever fool yourself into thinking that only weak or bad people get addicted."
"But there’s a million of these
towns that are like factories,
breeding hate and fear that only
the fortunate will never meet
"And these zoomed up
kids die like saints, for
--Volatalistic Phil, White Wedding Lies, and Discontent: An American Love Story
A heroin addict? Yes, For someone else's dollar.