Increased Heroin Abuse Among the Youth of America
Heroin use in the United States has been rising steadily since 2007, with an estimated 948,000 Americans hooked on the opioid in 2016 alone.1 The plague of heroin addiction in the United States can be felt from coast to coast, reaching and impacting suburban (and some rural) areas as much as it has affected metropolitan areas in the past. Even President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national emergency, stating that one of the keys to combating the crisis is reaching out to younger people.2
According to a report made by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an estimated 28,000 teens (between the ages of 12 and 17) and 268,000 young adults (between the ages of 18 and 25) have used heroin in the past year.3 It would seem—with statistics like these—that the youth of America has fallen tragically into a deep abyss with seemingly no chance of escape. However, heroin addiction does not have to be an impossible battle. With personalized medication and a proper heroin detox program, teens and young adults can not only reduce drug cravings, but scale down withdrawal symptoms, making achieving sobriety more doable and long-lasting.
Stigmas and Stereotypes
For a long time, the typical image of a heroin addict has been described as a dirty, often poor, and sickly individual hanging out in the wrong parts of town. However, this is one of many disillusioned stigmas and stereotypes of heroin addiction, which hinders the efforts to properly educate the youth of America about heroin use—who are keeping the trend of heroin use high—and which prompts that there isn’t a problem in the first place.
One stigma about teen heroin addiction that needs to be clarified is that heroin use stems strictly from experimentation from other drugs (e.g. marijuana). While some research suggests that prior drug and alcohol use can lead to harder substance use (e.g. heroin), there is astonishing evidence stating that high school teens who take prescribed opioids for pain relief (e.g. OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet) are 33 percent more likely to misuse opioids in their young adult life—which often leads to addiction.4
It is in these situations that the addictive qualities of heroin are most dangerous. Unlike their adult counterparts, teens are less likely to take their medication as prescribed or “as needed.” Combined with a common adolescent belief of invincibility, teens may fall into addiction without realizing it. There is also the misconception that heroin addiction occurs only if used for a prolonged period of time. In this regard, both teens with prescribed opioids and first-time users are horribly misguided.
There is research that suggests that even one-time heroin use can lead to addiction. Additionally, teens who have become addicted via prescribed opioids often turn to heroin because it is a cheap and readily available alternative to prescription painkillers. Finally, the misconception that using “pure” heroin is safer than less pure forms (because it doesn’t need to be injected) isn’t true because no matter how it is administered, heroin is highly addictive.5
How Heroin Affects Young Minds
There are a wide range of detrimental physical and psychological effects of heroin use on young adults, and especially in teenagers.6
- Apart from creating a high dependency on the drug (opioid use disorder), individuals may develop a plethora of mental health problems (i.e. depression, anxiety, or paranoia)
- Increased violence and aggression
- Disruptions in family and school life
- Stunted brain growth and development
- Increased risk of HIV/AIDS (through shared needles)
- Problems sleeping
- Clouded thinking
- Changes in menstrual cycles for women
If you feel that you or someone you know may have a heroin addiction, help and a variety of affordable treatment options can be found at Yellowstone Recovery.