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Friday, April 8, 2016

Public School Classmates and White Collar Workers -- Love Affairs With Fentanyl and Heroin


So, you don't understand heroin addiction. How in the world could so many people fall in love with an illegal opioid that claimed 5,927 people in 2012 and 8,260 people in 2013 -- the latest numbers available from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention? (By the way, experts say these confirmed figures are far too low for an accurate picture.)

I hear you say, “Heroin? How does anyone 'get on' a deadly substance so terrible that addiction leads to rehab, prison, or the morgue?

Two things are largely responsible for driving the increase in heroin overdoses: (1) widespread prescription opioid exposure and increasing rates of opioid addiction; and (2) increased heroin supply.

But, to find needed insight, please read this excerpt from an article in (Syracuse, New York):

“One grandfather recently called the sheriff's office after his 14-year-old granddaughter told him that she could get heroin anytime she wanted at school.

“The same people who started making a quick profit off heroin a few years ago are now getting into fentanyl, which is a similar, but stronger drug, Onondaga County Sheriff Gene Conway said.

“Typically, the same dealers will mix heroin and fentanyl. The drugs can be bought over the Internet from clandestine sources internationally, primarily China and Mexico. Deputies work with federal authorities, who are dealing with the same problems across Upstate New York and across the country.

"'It's all about the profit,' the sheriff said. Drug dealers 'by and large know what's in the product -- they don't care.'

“For users, it's all about chasing that next ultimate high. And so overdosing when fentanyl is suddenly added to jack up the effects doesn't faze them: Users will go right back to the same dealer who almost killed them, Conway said.

“There's no stigma against heroin anymore, Conway said. He recalled the cocaine epidemic a few decades ago, where users would say cocaine wasn't as bad as heroin. Now, it's reversed: cocaine is the stigmatized street drug and heroin is accepted, he said.

“Preteens and teens will get some from their classmates who say it's not so bad after all, Conway said. Or white-collar workers who suffer an injury will take the path from prescription painkillers to heroin to fentanyl. 

“Either way, it's hit every part of our community, the sheriff said. It's impossible to concentrate on any one area because it could be anywhere, he said.

“There have been lawyers, firefighters and high school athletes caught up in heroin, Conway said.

"'People are talking about heroin like marijuana now,' the sheriff said, describing its casual connotations.”

(Douglass Dowty. “Suburban Syracuse heroin mills disappear in hours, can be hidden in closets, sheriff says.” April 08, 2016.)

My Take

Now, do you better understand why you must care about the health epidemic that is sweeping America? Heroin is becoming commonplace as a “drug of choice” despite the risks it poses. “Getting some” of it in a prescription form – substances such as fentanyl, hydrophone (Vicodin), oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet), morphine (Kadian, Avinza), and codeine – is cheap and easy, even for young people. Popping opioid pills leads to shooting heroin.

We live in a country that widely advertises prescription drugs for every ill and physical discomfort. Our Prescription Nation contains 52 million people over the age of 12 who have used prescription drugs non-medically in their lifetime. 6.1 million of them have used these drugs non-medically in the past month. And, the U.S., which represents 5 percent of the world's population, consumes 75 percent of the the world's prescription drugs. In 2010, enough prescription painkillers were prescribed to medicate every American adult every 4 hours for 1 month. It is evident that our youth hold no stigma about using substances for recreational purposes.
Where are prescription drugs obtained?
  • 0.3%: Bought on the internet
  • 1.9%: More than one doctor
  • 2.2%: Other
  • 3.9%: Drug dealer or stranger
  • 16.6% Bought/took from friend or relative
  • 18.1%: One doctor
  • 54.2%: FREE from friend or relative


Who becomes addicted to heroin? As Sheriff Conway says, not only young people but also respectable adults in professional positions succumb to heroin addiction. The prevalence of addiction must become the major concern for lawmakers, and we all must open our eyes and minds to the reality that expecting enforcement to somehow end the supply and demand is ridiculous. The real answer to heroin addiction lies in our ability to change America from a Prescription Nation in which healthy people believe they must remain pain free to a Responsible Nation dedicated to stopping a raging health epidemic.


(“Popping Pills: Prescription Drug Abuse in America.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. January 2014.)

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