In recent years, heroin use has spread across the U.S., causing a significant rise in the number of deadly addictions.
In Massachusetts alone, more than 7,900 people died from opioid overdoses between 2000 and 2013, according to The Boston Globe. Of those deaths, nearly 1,000 occurred in 2013. Boston and many neighboring cities and suburbs — such as Lynn, Salem and Peabody — have suffered the most.
This is a problem all across the country. In Alabama, residents receive more painkiller prescriptions than anyone else in the U.S. Heroin use is strongly linked to painkiller abuse, as users who become addicted to the latter end up gravitating toward the former for a cheaper, similar high.
However, despite the widespread nature of the problem, many people do not have a complete understanding of heroin addiction, or what addicts must go through to get clean. Here are some common questions that a recent article on AL.com recently chose to address.
- Is the heroin epidemic different from previous drug epidemics? On one hand, heroin addiction has resulted in an alarming number of deaths compared to other drug problems. On the other hand, public health officials recognize the bigger picture. Mark Wilson, chief executive of the Jefferson County Department of Public Health, argued that, "There will always be something, and heroin is the drug du jour … That's why I think for us as a community we should think about broader strategies of drug abuse and addiction."
- Who is the typical heroin user? It's a common misconception that the only people who get addicted to heroin are poor. In fact, in Alabama policymakers have noticed that the typical user appears to be upper middle class, white and well-educated. Demographics alone cannot be used to identify heroin abuse.
- What are the biggest challenges for stopping heroin use? These vary based on who the addict is and their background, but when it comes to people who start using heroin as teenagers, experts believe that the biggest factor is peer pressure and stress at home. That's why it is so important to help addicts develop coping skills.
- Why are addiction treatment programs so critical? In our current legal system, addicts are often treated as criminals. However, this stance ignores the fact that addiction is fundamentally a medical problem that demands a cure. As Karen Cropsey, associate professor at the UAB Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology notes, "We need to stop treating addiction as a moral failure and start treating it as the medical problem that it is." Programs, such as the Fairwinds dual diagnosis, combines clinical treatment and therapeutic counseling, can identify and resolve the psychological triggers that lead to drug addiction and death.
The Fairwinds Treatment Center was founded in 1989 by Dr. M.K. (Khal) El-Yousef, who promoted the dual diagnosis method as a way of combining clinical treatment and therapeutic counseling for uncovering, and resolving, the psychological triggers behind addiction. If you or a loved one suffers from heroin addiction, now is the time to contact us in Clearwater, Florida, and begin the healing process. It is possible for addicts to experience a long-term recovery, and at Fairwinds, our goal is to make sure that our patients can pursue happier, drug-free lives going forward.