And the losing battle against it…
By de Andréa
Opinion Editorialist for
THE BOTTOM LINE
We may have a clandestine enemy worse than ISIS in America, but should we
continue trying to defeat it in the same way?
Heroin first came into being in 1874 when English chemist C.R. Alder Wright added two acetyl groups to the morphine molecule found in the flowering plant , it is the variety of poppy that gives the world both a magical pain killer and a ruthless unforgiving nightmare.
Early on, scientists had high hopes that heroin would be a safer and less addictive alternative to morphine, which had left tens of thousands of soldiers dependent on it after the Civil War. At the dawn of the 20th century, philanthropic societies even dispensed free samples of heroin to morphine addicts. Unfortunately, the new wonder drug, when injected, turned out to be two to four times more potent than the dreaded morphine, and another unknown side effect was…it was even more addictive.
While recreational drugs such as LSD, cocaine, crack, and meth have been more prominent in the news in recent decades, heroin had taken a back seat…that is until now!
The dragon known as heroin has once again raised its ugly head and surged into the spotlight.
Heroin is rapidly becoming America’s number one enemy. What is behind the growing heroin epidemic?
For something so potentially deadly, it has a few poetic nicknames: Black Pearl, China White, Brown Crystal an many other equally enticing street names.
In 2013, about 681,000 individuals aged 12 and older reported using heroin, doubling the usage of a decade ago when approximately 379,000 individuals aged 12 and older reported using it.
The rise in heroin use is a result of several factors that have converged over the past two decades, including abuse of prescription painkillers, which are also made from the opium poppy and are essentially a legal form of heroin. Prescription painkiller abuse is actually the fastest growing drug problem in America at present.
Prior to the mid-1990s, prescriptions of painkiller narcotics were restricted almost exclusively to terminal cancer patients and victims of severe accidents, but "the emergence of Vicodin and OxyContin in 1996 changed the game. OxyContin, a sustained- time release prescription narcotic and Hydrocodon, the opioid drug in Vicodin, now largely replaced by Norco, that is highly likely to lead to addiction and abuse, was aggressively marketed throughout the late 1990s to combat a growing 'pain epidemic' in the U.S.
As the medical field and the FDA became concerned about the abuse and addiction potential of these drugs, and as rashes of accidental prescription painkiller overdose deaths popped up across the country, many physicians became wary about prescribing it long-term and in large doses.
However, a small group of rogue doctors saw the entrepreneurial possibilities and capitalized on the growing addiction problem by setting up "pill mills" in states like Kentucky, Ohio, and Florida, where patients could pay large sums of cash to receive a quick prescription and retrieve the pills right on site. Between 1996 and 2000, sales of Opioids like Oxy and hydrocodone surged from $48 million to $1.1 billion."
Over the past decade, health care officials and government leaders have tried to combat the prescription opioid epidemic by cracking down on pill mills. In 2013, the FDA approved a new "abuse deterrent" form of OxyContin designed to deter crushing and snorting, or injecting by making the drug more difficult to crush, break, or dissolve. Although these efforts have resulted in recent declines in prescription painkiller abuse, the unintended consequence of these strategies has instead led to an increase in heroin use. Individuals who became addicted to painkillers soon found that heroin was easier to get and’, it is cheaper. In fact, a single hit of heroin is now cheaper than a six-pack of beer in some states. Proving that at least when a substance is a legal prescription product, it can be controlled. Instead of criminalizing it and driving it underground. All current signs point to heroin abuse being a long-term problem in the U.S. maybe even more dangerous than the threat of ISIS.
Who is todays’ typical heroin addict?
Most people actually have the wrong mental picture. Popular culture tends to portray heroin as a New York inner-city African-American problem. To be sure, heroin use remains a big problem in inner cities where educational quality is low and where there are few economic opportunities. But today, the truth is, that those that live in rural white affluent America are actually more likely than poor blacks to use heroin. It’s not a problem of demographics, it’s a problem of education.
The 'typical' heroin user in the past, has been unmarried 18- to 25-year-old black males with low educational attainment and a household income of under $20,000. But that is rapidly changing. Today more than half of all heroin users are now employed and about a quarter even have children living with them. What may surprise some people is that the biggest surge in heroin use over the past ten years has been among white women.
Moreover, heroin use is now actually more prevalent in small cities and rural towns than in large metropolitan inner cities. Many people using heroin are also abusing a multiple of other substances, especially prescription painkillers. About two-thirds of adults who have ever used heroin have likely also abused prescription painkillers (e.g., OxyContin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, Percocet, and codeine) at some point in their lives.
The key to preventing addiction is to prevent initiation through education before the fact and not incarceration after the fact. Heroin is a highly addictive substance that creates up to 100 times more endorphins – (a natural 'feel good' hormone produced by the brain for the purpose of chemical stabilization) -- than what the brain can produce naturally. Once one is introduced to these artificial endorphins, the brain stops producing its own, and the user [who tries to stop using] must endure terrible withdrawal symptoms, chemical destabilization leading to depression and pain, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. The only way to compensate for those lost endorphins and to stop the withdrawal symptoms is to take more and more and higher doses of the opiate. This is the vicious cycle of heroin, and prescription painkiller addiction.
The ignorance of the useless FDA
Contrary to the war on drugs the FDA has ignorantly approved OxyContin for . Most substance abuse begins in adolescence, when the brain is still developing it is highly susceptible to addiction. So preventing adolescent initiation of any type of opiate use is one of the keys to stopping the current epidemic, making the FDA part of the problem as usual. (We Are The Government And We are Here To Protect You) Consequently, physicians who do’, or must’, prescribe painkillers to adolescents should require regular follow-up visits throughout the course of the prescription and should encourage parents to administer the pills at the recommended timing and dosage. Any unused prescriptions should be returned to the pharmacy rather than thrown away or saved in the family medicine cabinet, but this is problematic.
While some new medications show promise in curbing addiction, they are often not widely available, or’ are expensive and not covered by insurance. One such example is Naloxone Hydrochloride, an emergency anti-opioid drug used to counter or reverse an opioid overdose. Naloxone Hydrochloride is injected by a pre-loaded pen or autoinjector much like an Epipen. All emergency medical providers should carry Naloxone. Naloxone has been available from pharmacies with a doctor's prescription for quite some time, many states have recently allowed drugstores to dispense it to anyone. Unfortunately, it is still not widely available.
For those who are already addicted, recovery is a long and difficult road. If we're really serious about reversing the current trend in heroin use, we need to view heroin addiction as a physical and mental health problem that not only requires intensive treatment and support but extensive education of school children beginning in junior high, instead of criminalizing it and putting children in jail.
THE BOTTOM LINE: On a personal note: More years ago than I care to remember, and because of a military injury, I was addicted to morphine. While that is behind me now, I am still taking narcotics in the form of prescription Norco, which is hydrocodone laced with Acetaminophen. So far, I have been using it responsibly but even so, with the amount I am using, I have had to stop occasionally because I knew I was becoming addicted. It’s inevitable with long term use of narcotics. Withdrawal is not fun. Eventually I know that I will be too old to care that I am a drug addict.
With that said. For years I have been wondering about such problems as poverty and the subsequent war on it. And the Alcohol problem and the war on that beginning back in the early 20 century with prohibition. And then the drug problem and the subsequent war on that. All three of those problems have three things in common.
· First: they are all ongoing continuing problems.
· Second: war has been declared on all three of them.
· Third: the war is, and has been, a losing battle.
Laws don’t prevent crime my friend…laws only condemn the criminal.
In 1920 the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed making it illegal to sell, produce, import, and transport - alcoholic beverages. The War on Alcohol had begun, but in spite of it, or because of it, the consumption of alcohol increased and crime of all kinds went up, up, up. Then in 1933 the congress realized they were losing the battle and they abolish the law. Alcohol abuse was getting worse instead of better.
In the 1960s President Johnson announced his ‘War on Poverty’. The War on Poverty had begun. Today we have more poverty in America than we have had since 1934 during the Great Depression. Through federal welfare, the weapon used to fight the war on poverty, poverty got worse instead of
In 1968 Johnson created the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. The War on Drugs had begun. Today we have more drug addicts and drug related crime per capita than we had in 1967. Drug abuse is worse instead of better.
Recently I watched a series of interviews on a 60 minutes segment about Heroin Addiction in the American Midwest. (This is incidentally what prompted me to write this article.) All of the people interviewed were in their early twenties and had been addicts since they were young teenagers. Moreover, every one of them said they had no idea that heroin was addictive or dangerous at the time they began using. In addition, they were all’ from affluent families.
Haven’t we learned anything at all by the mistakes of the past? Also as I said earlier “Laws don’t prevent crime…laws only condemn the criminal” If laws have not stopped alcohol abuse, and poverty, what makes anyone think that it will stop drug abuse?
Why continue trying to swim up the waterfall of drugs pouring into this country. Let’s dam up the river instead, it works with flood control. It will work with drugs. Then educate the people most susceptible to the use of these dangerous chemicals. Put the fear of the dragon into them…
Bearing in mind as I said earlier that “all of the people interviewed were in their early twenties and had been addicts since they were young teenagers. And every one of them said they had no idea that heroin was addictive or dangerous at the time they began using.” Shouldn’t we be educating kids in our schools, instead of brainwashing them and turning them into little communist robots on drugs? And then we put them in jail after they learn the hard way?
“The further back one looks, the further forward one can see”- Sir Winston Churchill.
It will be interesting but sad, to watch who controls our kids in the future. The Communist America Haters, or the Drug Lords.
I’m glad I won’t be here to see either one…
Thanks for listening - de Andréa
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