Heroin Abuse Essay, Research Paper
Heroin abuse is a serious national problem, one that is increasing everyday. More and more middle class, suburban adolescents and adults have turned to heroin as their drug of choice. In addition, heroin related deaths have skyrocketed within the last few years. With heroin on the rise in so many areas of the country it is important to know and understand the effects and consequences that heroin use and abuse can have. First and foremost, it is significant to understand what heroin is and where it comes from. Heroin comes from the family of drugs known as opiates. Opiates are taken from the resin of the Asian poppy plant. Heroin, the most common opiate, is an illegal and highly addictive drug. It is often mixed (or cut ) with another powder to reduce its potency and to increase the profits of the dealer. The heroin can be cut with other drugs or things such as sugar, starch, or even powdered milk. Because heroin users do not know the actual strength of the drug or what exactly is in it, they are at risk of overdose or even death. Both of which have made their way into the headlines of newspapers and magazines more and more lately. Heroin also poses problems because of the transmission of HIV and other diseases that can occur from the sharing of needles. Heroin can be used in a number of ways and forms. Today s heroin is stronger than ever before. Therefore, you don t have to shoot up to get high. You can snort it or smoke it making the drug seem less threatening, also making it easier for people to experiment with. Intravenous injection of the drug provides the greatest intensity and the fastest onset of euphoria, approximately anywhere from seven to eight seconds. When heroin is sniffed or smoked, the effects are usually felt within ten to fifteen minutes. Although smoking and sniffing heroin do not produce a rush as quickly as intravenous injection, research has confirmed that all three are addictive. Heroin also costs less today, than ever before making it a cheap high. In addition, to being cheap, heroin is accessible. One adolescent user stated Heroin is easier to get than alcohol. The liquor stores and bars eventually close, but the heroin stores are open twenty-four hours a day. (Nutmeg) Research has shown that there has been an increase of adolescent heroin use recently. Young users across the country are being lured by inexpensive, high purity heroin that can be sniffed or smoked instead of injected. Likewise, heroin has also made its way into more affluent communities, a place where it was never heard of before. Another important thing to know about heroin use is, its effects. The first of which is their short-term or immediate effect. When heroin is consumed, by whatever method the user chooses, it goes into the brain. There it is turned into morphine, and attaches itself to our natural opioid receptors. The user then begins to feel a surge of pleasure, known as a rush . The intensity of the rush depends upon the amount of the drug that is taken and how quickly it enters the brain and connects. The rush is usually accompanied by a warming of the skin, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, and severe itching. After the initial effects, the user will be tired for several hours. While all this is happening, the heartbeat will slow, as well as the users breathing sometimes to the point of death. One of the most harmful long-term effects of heroin is heroin addiction itself. Addiction is a chronic problem, defined by compulsive drug use. As with users of any addictive drug, heroin addicts gradually spend more and more time and energy getting and using the drug. Once the are addicted, the heroin users primary purpose in life is to seek and get heroin any way they can. One user states, I got a job to get high. When I used more than I made at work, I stole. When that wasn t enough, I sold. You gotta do it to have it. The drug becomes everything. I wake up and the first thing I think about is using and how I m gonna do it. (Jalil 1) Another user said, I bought drugs instead of food. I was never like this. I know it s wrong, but I still do it. (Jalil 3 ) Physical dependency develops with higher doses of heroin. With physical dependency, the body adapts to the presence of the drug and withdrawal symptoms occur if the drug is stopped abruptly. Withdrawal can occur within a few hours after the last time the drug is taken and can have symptoms like, restlessness, muscle and bone pain cold flashes, insomnia, and vomiting. Major withdrawal symptoms occur between twenty-four and forty-eight hours after the last dose of heroin. They will usually end in about a week. However, some users have taken months to get over withdrawal symptoms. It is important to know that heroin withdrawal is never fatal to an adult but can be to an unborn fetus or infant and as with the short-term effects, death is always a possibility.
One of the greatest risks of being a heroin addict is death from an overdose. Each year about one percent of all heroin addicts in the United States dies from an overdose of heroin, despite their high tolerance to the effects of the drug. What has become more common though, is people dying, of overdoses the first or second time they ever used heroin. This can probably be attributed to the higher potency of the drug and the fact that people simply don t know what exactly they re getting. According to the 1996 National Institute on Drug Abuse, an estimated 2.6 million people have used heroin at some point in their lives.(Nutmeg 1) In another survey, reports estimated that there were 171,000 new heroin users in 1996 and that there has been a steady increase since 1992, that number is probably even higher now in 1999. A big part of these new users were snorting and smoking the drug rather than shooting it and most were under age 26. (Nutmeg 1) Finally, and probably most important, is the issue of how to treat and prevent the problem of addiction. What can be done to prevent people from becoming heroin addicts or any kind of addicts for that matter, and what can be done to help them if they already are? Although most people believe that drug education programs, such as the DARE program, can play an important role in preventing harmful drug experiences, there is no real evidence to prove these programs are successful. You can only teach a person so much, and then the responsibility turns to them and what they choose to do with that information. More times than not they make the wrong decisions despite all the education they have received. Often the information given through the education programs is geared to scare kids so that they won t want to try the drugs. This approach is not working. Another approach is to give them the basic facts. However even when the facts are honestly set forth there can be little hope of them stopping experimentation. So what is there to do? As far as prevention goes the only method available is to educate the people and hope for the best. Maybe sometime in the near future they will perfect this method and we will begin to see a change. Because heroin is regarded as the most serious drug threat to society, there has been a much more concentrated effort at treatment for heroin addicts. The two main treatment methods for heroin addicts are one, abstinence followed by outpatient or inpatient group therapy, and two, detoxification with methadone, which is given in decreasing doses until the addict is drug free. The methadone programs have proven to be the most successful if the patient truly wants to quit. About forty-five to eighty percent of those admitted to methadone programs are successfully treated. The heroin addict is the only kind of addict that receives this kind of treatment. In conclusion, heroin addiction is a serious and growing national problem. Neither the availability of heroin nor the temptation to abuse it can or will be eliminated. Therefore, it is important that people be educated and actually understand the effects of abuse and how to prevent and treat the problem. Work Cited Bellis, David J. Heroin and Politicians The Failure of Public Policy to Control Addiction in America, pp92-213. 1981Beyer, Janice M and Harrison, Trice M . A Sociological Property of Drugs Journal of Studies on Alochol Vol. 38 No 1. Jan 1977.Jalil, Guillermo D. firstname.lastname@example.org. 1996Nutmeg Intensive Rehabilitation. www.2nutmeg.com 1996,1997,1998