America’s Heroin Epidemic

By Briana Alexander

America faces threats from outsiders such as terrorist organizations or simply other countries all the time, but currently some of the biggest threats to the American people can be found within our own states. One of these big threats is the increase in deaths due to drug use, specifically, heroin. According to a recent Washington post article, “Heroin use has increased five fold over a decade, and dependence on the drug has tripled.” Heroin in itself is not only highly addictive but it also comes fairly cheap in the black market. An addict could spend up to 300 dollars a week on fulfilling their need for the drug and not risking the painful stakes of withdrawal. Heroin has the ability to collapse lungs, cause pneumonia, and most drastically, can lead directly to death. This is not the only time heroin has created a fuss within society. Back in the late 1890s heroin was being sold by the German drug company Bayer and others as an over-the-counter medication that could treat cold and pain remedies. In 1914 the laws regarding heroin distribution became more strict, but heroin still resurfaced in the 1970s and led to President Nixon basically declaring war on drug trafficking. But where does the need for heroin stem from?

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The subject of the heroin crisis projects on an even bigger crisis, the opiate crisis in America. Opiates are generally drugs that are used to relieve pain; some opiates can be bought over the counter or be prescribed. And with Americans  being shown as now having more chronic pain than before, these types of drugs have become high in demand. But the addicting factor of these drugs are what led to restrictions on over-the-counter opiate distribution, which now has led to people in need of a way to relieve pain turning to heroin, as it is more accessible and cheaper.

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But here’s the staggering truth: as much as the government can try, the risk of drug-related death will never simply diminish. Once law enforcement places control over the heroin epidemic other drugs such as fentanyl will rise, that create the same effect as heroin but are cheaper. Drug dealers and opiate companies recognize their demand and actively continue to please their “customers” despite the overwhelming consequences. That is not to say nothing should be done. According to federal data from 2014 almost 89% of those who face drug use do not get proper treatment. The focus should not be singularly on trying to get rid of the drugs but on creating a space where people can actively change their habits. The focus should also be on maintaining a society that does not ignore the harsh realities of drug addiction but fully acknowledges its truths and works to teach people how to cope with situations without turning to harmful drugs. Drug use in America is not a simple topic. Addicts come in all forms and quitting is not an easy task, but to create a change, we must first acknowledge this reality.

Sources: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2017/03/30/a-staggering-increase-in-u-s-heroin-use-has-hit-young-white-men-the-hardest/?utm_term=.cf10968d035d

http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2017/3/23/14987892/opioid-heroin-epidemic-charts

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