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Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Heroin Deaths Up 39% In One Year

"Today, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is announcing the 2013 drug overdose mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The data show that drug deaths related to prescription opioids have remained stable since 2012, but the mortality rate associated with heroin increased for the third year in a row.

"The data show a 6% increase in all drug poisoning deaths from 2012, and a 1% increase in deaths involving opioid analgesics over 2012. Deaths involving heroin had the largest upsurge overall, with a 39% increase from 2012, while deaths involving cocaine increased 12%. These results demonstrate that while the Administration’s efforts to curb the epidemic of the nonmedical use of prescription drugs is working, much more work is needed to improve the way we prevent and treat substance use disorders.

“The data announced today underscore that the nation’s drug problem is evolving, and requires a comprehensive solution—including preventing drug use before it ever begins, reducing the supply coming from foreign nations, educating our nation’s youth on the risks of substance use, and the work of our nation’s Federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement to continue reducing the amount of trafficking within the United States,” said Michael Botticelli, Acting Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy."

The 39% increase in heroin deaths from 2012 to 2013 is directly related to the fight against prescription drug abuse, and, as evidenced in just a 1% increase in deaths involving opioid analgesics in 2012, it is a significant marker that hard work to end pill mills and to stop the illegal distribution of potentially deadly rx medications by criminal physicians is showing great progress.

The incredible increase in heroin deaths is shocking, yet predictable in the sense that heroin, like oxycodone, is a powerful opioid. It is the addict's substitute for opioid prescription drugs. Those addicted to substances like OxyContin become heroin users to satisfy their need for chemical dependency.

Thus, heroin addicts -- still stereotyped by many as homeless, dirty lowlifes -- are actually humans of all ages whose numbers populate every social and economic strata. People who mainline the derivative of the milky substance of the opium poppy crave this import as the lifeblood of their addiction. What decades ago was viewed by many as the most detestable drug of abuse has reached a new, incredible popularity.

I believe a change of attitude toward heroin use and heroin addiction is also required to stop the epidemic of deaths caused by the drug. As long as we harbor zero tolerance for accepting the significant role of a vile substance as something we should make ourselves better understand as a common enemy of all, we will underestimate the prevalence of its destruction.

I strongly believe the first step in eradicating a problem is to expose fully its grimy underbelly. Only then can the public examine closely the entire monster and devise better methods to defeat it. As much as we would like to pigeonhole heroin addiction as an unthinkable alternative to prescription opioids, we need to face the facts. Most of those who are becoming addicted to heroin began their ordeal of dependency on prescription drugs.

To believe that heroin abuse in the 21st century occurs only in the criminal underworld is naïve reasoning. The distribution network is now so entrenched in America -- its cities, its towns, and its rural hamlets -- that nothing besides a full-scale attack on the enterprise by the populace will effect much change. Enforcement is losing the battle as is evidenced in the recent statistics. It is up to us all to come together and enact new methods to remove this cancer that threatens to destroy our way of life.

The nature of the beast is all-consuming and unrelenting. It will be extremely difficult to change habits and minds. To those who say, "Legalize all drugs and let the addicts kill themselves," I say, "What responsibility do you have to your fellow man?" Do you who care nothing for the suffering of others expect to teach any lasting virtues of compassion and understanding to future generations? Or, are you promoting the belief that some people are so inherently evil that they should perish?

The reality is that no Old Guard solution will significantly impact the problem of swelling heroin poisonings. The adamant slogan of "Just say no" and the fried egg image of "This is your brain on drugs" have lost touch long ago. There are no "good guys" wearing white hats defeating the "bad guys" that lurk the streets of your town. There are only you and I walking through the littered battlefield of the heroin crisis and all of the related sobriety issues that lie at our feet.

Opioids are so strong and so prevalent that no simple solution devised will keep you from feeling the evil of their addictive grip -- they likely have already possessed someone in your circle of family and friends. And, without major changes in how we all deal with pleasure and pain, the suffering will intensify.

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