We are in the midst of a Heroin Epidemic. 13abc takes a look at what’s causing so many people to turn to Heroin use. Our investigation shows in most cases, users started off by taking prescription pain medications, such as Vicodin, Oxycontin or Percocet. Many of them started using pain medications for legitimate medical reasons. We talk with recovering heroin addicts, as well as the family of a local man who took his life rather than face the pain and failure of trying to overcome his heroin addiction. Join us for this special investigation, “HOOKED ON HEROIN.”
Heroin Fact Sheet:
Heroin is an opioid drug. It is synthesized from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of the Asian opium poppy plant.
STREET NAMES: H, Junk, Smack, Big H, Hell Dust, Hose Drops, Thunder, Brown Sugar, Horse, Skag
Heroin can be injected, snorted or smoked. The first time it’s used, the drug creates a sensation of euphoria. That feeling continues, but users need more and more of it to create that sensation. Pure heroin is a white powder, but it’s more commonly rose gray, brown or black in color. It’s most often “cut” with other substances like Strychnine, and that’s what can be immediately fatal when it’s injected. Users have no idea what is actually in the drug they’re taking.
Prescription Opioid Abuse: A First Step to Heroin Use?
Prescription opioid pain medications such as Oxycontin and Vicodin can have effects similar to heroin when taken in doses or in ways other than prescribed, and they are currently among the most commonly abused drugs in the United States. Research now suggests that abuse of these drugs may open the door to heroin abuse.
Nearly half of young people who inject heroin surveyed in three recent studies reported abusing prescription opioids before starting to use heroin. Some individuals reported taking up heroin because it is cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription opioids. Many of these young people also report that crushing prescription opioid pills to snort or inject the powder provided their initiation into these methods of drug administration.
SHORT TERM EFFECTS OF HEROIN USE
CLOUDED MENTAL FUNCTIONING
NAUSEA AND VOMITING
HYPOTHERMIA (LOW BODY TEMPERATURE)
COMA OR DEATH (DUE TO OVERDOSE)
LONG TERM EFFECTS OF HEROIN
INFECTED VEINS FROM INJECTION SITE
HEART AND BASCULAR INFECTIONS
AIDS (FROM SHARED NEEDLES)
HEPATITIS C (LIVER DISEASE_
LOSS OF MEMORY FOR GOOD
How Does Heroin Affect the Brain? When it enters the brain, heroin is converted back into morphine, which binds to molecules on cells known as opioid receptors. These receptors are located in many areas of the brain (and in the body), especially those involved in the perception of pain and in reward. Opioid receptors are also located in the brain stem, which controls automatic processes critical for life, such as blood pressure, arousal, and respiration. Heroin overdoses frequently involve a suppression of breathing, which can be fatal. After an intravenous injection of heroin, users report feeling a surge of euphoria (“rush”) accompanied by dry mouth, a warm flushing of the skin, heaviness of the extremities, and clouded mental functioning. Following this initial euphoria, the user goes “on the nod,” an alternately wakeful and drowsy state. Users who do not inject the drug may not experience the initial rush, but other effects are the same. Regular heroin use changes the functioning of the brain. One result is tolerance, in which more of the drug is needed to achieve the same intensity of effect. Another result is dependence, character-ized by the need to continue use of the drug to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
Ohio Heroin Unit The Ohio Attorney General is creating a Heroin Unit. That’s part of Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s approach at the state level. This unit will work with law enforcement from across the state to fight drug trafficking. Interestingly, DeWine says he’s been told by sheriffs and police chiefs across Ohio, that we are not going to arrest our way out of this problem. In response, the Attorney General is putting together an outreach team from his office to work with everyone involved with the heroin epidemic; law enforcement, concerned citizens, community leaders and treatment organizations. That’s the approach from the top. The real answers are coming from those on the front line of this battle. Hands on people who have walked the road of recovery from drugs and alcohol, grieving family members who’ve lost loved ones to the disease, and addicts themselves. If they’ve gotten to the point where they’re facing death in the face or the gut wrenching road to recovery, many are yelling loud enough to get help. Whether they reach out and hold onto the hand that's extended them, is totally up to them. Addiction Recovery Resources:
U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides a toll-free and confidential hotline 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, providing assistance in English and Spanish for individuals and family members facing substance abuse and mental health issues. In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357).
DrugFree.org The Partnership at DrugFree.org provides a toll-free helpline and nationwide support service for parents (and other primary caregivers of children) who want to talk to someone about their child’s drug use and drinking. The Helpline number is 1-855-DRUGFREE (1-855-378-4373) and is open Monday through Friday, 10:00 am to 6:00 pm ET. (Closed weekends and holidays.)