When Fairwinds Treatment Center was first opened in 1989, the perception among the public about heroin addicts was that they were a group composed largely of inner city minorities. As a result, there has always been a sentiment, however unjust, that heroin and other narcotics were a problem unique to those communities, and that residents of the suburbs were much less likely to have to deal with this issue.
If that ever was the case, it certainly isn't any longer. New research indicates that the majority of heroin users are young, white and live in the suburbs. A survey published recently in the academic journal JAMA Psychiatry found that the average age of heroin users was 23, and that three-quarters of these individuals starting using heroin after trying OxyContin.
"Our typical image of a heroin user is a 'dirty junkie,'" Theodore J. Cicero, lead study author and a professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, said in a news release. "This is not the current heroin user."
NPR reports that the survey was conducted using responses from 9,000 patients at drug addiction treatment centers around the country. The study's authors note that heroin has become particularly popular with young people due to its low cost compared to prescription opioids.
The lesson to draw from this study is that stereotypes of users are in no way an accurate way to judge whether an individual is at risk of becoming addicted. Even if you reside in a relatively clean, suburban neighborhood with a low crime rate, this does not mean that your young family members are not at risk of developing a heroin habit.
If you notice a change in behavior in your loved ones that you believe is connected with drug use and mental illness, it is highly encouraged that you contact Fairwinds Treatment Center in Clearwater, Florida, to explore the options that are available in terms of inpatient and outpatient therapy.