Heroin Epidemic 2016
America is in the grip of a heroin epidemic that is calling for federal and state intervention. While most Americans are focused on a variety of pressing issues, many are unaware or not paying attention to the massive amount of heroin that is making its way into America. From the southern border of the U.S. much of the heroin goes into California and is then moved around the country into major cities and rural areas alike. The heroin epidemic has reached every strata of American society: rich and poor, young and old, urban and rural, and every ethnic group and race.
The reason for the epidemic is blamed on the wide use and abuse of pain prescription medications such as OxyContin. In 2012, physicians wrote 259 million prescriptions for pain medications and that number is enough to supply every American with a bottle of pills. Many people who abused pain medications moved on to heroin because they did not need a prescription for it, and it was easier and cheaper to get. In 2014 approximately 47,000 people died from a drug overdose, which equates to about 5 people per hour in America.
Entire communities in America are being negatively affected by the heroin epidemic. The New England Journal of Medicine has reported that the admission of drug-induced babies to neonatal intensive care units almost quadrupled from 2004 to 2013. Sadly, these babies are being born into the agonizing grip of drug withdrawal.
Congress has advanced millions of dollars to provide resources to fight the heroin epidemic problem. These resources were meant to help facilitate treatment, recovery, prevention and intervention. Unfortunately, funding has not proven to be enough. People on the front lines, including first responders, have reported that there are not enough resources available to address the issue. There are days when first responders can barely handle the calls and other days when they are positively overwhelmed. More resources will need to be made available to organize an effective, well-coordinated response to handle the epidemic.
Heroin addiction is a serious, chronic relapsing disease and most people with heroin dependence are not receiving the treatment they need to get well. It is estimated that about nine people out of ten do not receive treatment for substance abuse in the U.S. State governments have been providing first responders with the overdose prevention medication Naloxone to use on people experiencing an overdose. While Naloxone saves many lives, nothing is being done to rehabilitate the addicts after they are released from the hospital. In most cases they will go back to using heroin before withdrawal symptoms begin. As the rate of overdose victims increases, the availability of state-run rehab center openings is decreasing. Many people who cannot afford private rehab centers are being turned away for treatment at government facilities. Perhaps in the future there will be some kind of partnership provided between private rehab centers and government funding for the overflow of addicts that desperately need help.
People from many communities across America feel that not enough is being done to reverse the heroin epidemic. Congress is in the process of addressing the opioid prescription drug problem, which hopefully will curtail the number of opioid prescriptions written annually. But the heroin problem on the street also has to be dealt with, along with open border issues that allow the drug to be brought into the country.
Because of the voracious American appetite for heroin, Mexican heroin production has increased about fifty percent. Between the years 2012 and 2013, the poppy fields in Afghanistan were expanded by thirty percent. Global poppy cultivation has hit its highest levels since the 1930’s according to a United Nation’s report, which suggests that the heroin epidemic will continue.
The heroin epidemic is a complex issue that requires many answers to many problems. The most an average American citizen can do at this time is voice their opinion in the public square, contact their government representatives, offer help to rehabilitate addicts, educate their children, family and friends and pray.