As of 2007, hydrocodone (i.e. Vicodin, Lortab) had become the most prevalently abused pharmaceutical drug throughout the United States. In the same year, methadone (used as a means of helping opiate addicts wean off of their drug of choice) was responsible for 785 deaths in the state of Florida alone.
Opiates have been a significant drug problem in the United States for over a decade. While in 1999 the rate of opiate abuse-related overdoses was around that of cocaine (about 4,000 per year), it grew by 21%to almost 17,000 in 2010. Since then, the number of prescription opiate-related fatalities has continued to climb as time has gone on.
The Public Response to the Opiate Crisis
As the number of deaths increased, so did the countrywide awareness of just how grave and widespread this problem with pharmaceutical drugs had become. As government officials began to take notice, strict programs were implemented and geared toward reducing the amount of prescription opiates available. At the same time, these programs have attempted to raise awareness among both law enforcement agents and the general public.
Prescription drop boxes were established throughout the country, allowing individuals to safely dispose of any unused, expired or unwanted prescriptions that may have otherwise been abused. Educational programs were brought to schools and to parents, and first responders were taught what to do in the case of a prescription opiate overdose.
On account of the immense dedication to the cause and the success of government implemented programs, the rates of pharmaceutical-related overdose finally began to decline. It seemed as if, at last, the devastating results of widespread and rampant opioid addiction were beginning to lessen.
Prescription Opiate Abusers Driven to Heroin
Unfortunately, nationwide opiate abuse was far from over. Opiate addicts have not merely thrown up their hands and begrudgingly quit when their supply of pills ran out. Instead, many addicts turned to heroin, marketed on the streets as a cheaper and far more readily available narcotic opiate alternative.
Heroin is a narcotic made from alkaloids found in the opium poppy, just as hydrocodone is. For this reason, the two drugs are considered to be more or less equally harmful to the user, and at worst hydrocodone is extremely likely to progress into heroin addiction.
At the same time, heroin addiction poses a public health problem even graver than hydrocodone ever did It is much more addictive than hydrocodone, which tends to be about one-quarter of the strength of street heroin on a milligram for milligram basis. Though the harm it may cause has been demonstrated, hydrocodone is a pharmaceutical drug. As such, there is a measure of quality control, unlike with heroin, which is known to be “cut” with numerous other harmful substances.
Why would anyone throw their lives away to this substance, which is well known to be the most dangerous and addictive drugs in history? Many people who are now heroin addicts do not fit the conventional stereotype. They come from all walks of life and all demographics, age groups and genders.
It is story heard far too often – a young athlete is prescribed pain pills for a sports injury, gets hooked, and eventually dies a completely unexpected death due to a heroin overdose. A stay-at-home mother begins to take pain pills to help alleviate the stress of day-to-day life, looking to take the edge off but not by any stretch anticipating getting rapidly hooked. An adolescent boy falls into the wrong crowd and begins experimenting with his friends. He tries some OxyContin his friend has found in his mother’s medicine cabinet and immediately wonders how he can get more. Soon this young boy is living on the streets, having dropped out of school and unintentionally devoting the remainder of his youth to heroin.
The Heroin Epidemic Continues to Claim Lives on a Daily Basis
Currently, heroin addiction is one of the major causes of premature fatality nationwide. Especially in regions across the east coast, heroin has killed thousands and continues to claim hundreds of lives on a daily basis.
Stricter regulations have been attempted. Public awareness has been raised. And all the while, this drug continues to take its toll. However, the shortcomings of public policy do not imply that the situation is hopeless. Rather, it implies that a new solution must be tried.
Addiction, whether it is to heroin or hydrocodone, is a medical disease. It must be medically treated. Without help, it can only get worse and progress: from pills to heroin to, eventually, death.
If you or someone you love has experienced this deadly progression, or is abusing prescription opiates and has not yet picked up intravenous drug use, it is crucial that professional help is sought immediately. Please call one a trained addiction treatment specialist today for a detailed explanation on what steps you should take in order to receive treatment as quickly as possible. Contact a Florida drug rehab program today to begin your recovery from addiction.