Heroin Use Among Teens is On Rise
The flood of heroin coming to the East Coast of the United States has surged to the highest levels in more than two decades, fueled by an increasing demand. Despite the fact that 100 Americans die from a drug overdose every day, more and more people are using drugs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 38,329 deaths from overdose in 2010 in the United States. That’s more than double the 16,849 fatal overdoses recorded in 1999. Overdosing is now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., ahead of traffic fatalities and gun homicides.
There is now so much heroin in New York and New Jersey that a first hit can cost as little as $1. But once hooked, the craving can feel impossible to deny and spark hundred-dollar-a-day appetites. Law enforcement in those states say that heroin addicts are not who you might imagine. Forget the idea of thugs on street corners. With the cell phone texting revolution has come the ability for dealers to connect with clients easily. People who would never have access to these drugs before due to location are easily able to get drugs in their own neighborhoods. Police are seeing more and more teenagers and young adults scoring drugs via cell phones from their own homes. The heroin plague is affecting all demographics – men, women, all range of incomes, all range of ages, all range of ethnicities. No one is immune.
Health officials warn that we’re in the midst of a new heroin epidemic that will only get worse before it gets better. Parents should take steps to protect their children by talking to them about Heroin.
Give Teens the Facts
Parents must educate themselves and talk to their teens about the drug. Heroin belongs to a group of pain-relieving drugs called narcotics. Although certain narcotics, such as codeine and morphine, are legal if prescribed by doctors to treat pain, such as when someone has surgery or breaks a bone, heroin is an illegal narcotic because it is has dangerous side effects and is very addictive.
Heroin, which ranges in appearance from a white to dark brown powder or tar-like substance, is usually snorted, injected or smoked. It’s a depressant that slows messages traveling between the brain and body, but when it enters the body, it gives users a rush of euphoria. Heroin is a very addictive drug and many people find it extremely difficult to stop, even after using it only once or twice. Common conditions that plague heroin users include infection of the heart lining and valves, liver disease, lung disease, collapsed veins, and hepatitis and HIV/AIDS from needle use. Death from a heroin overdose is usually because the drug inhibits the brain centers that control breathing, and after making someone feel calm and sleepy, the respiratory drive will simply shut down.
Watch for Prescription Drug Abuse
Experts say that the number one sign someone will use heroin is if he or she ever abused prescription painkillers like Vicodin and oxycodone. The drugs are similar, but you can purchase a lot more heroin than oxycodone for the same amount of money. The large supply of heroin is lowering prices, which is driving up demand. Teens who get addicted to prescription drugs (1 in 5 teens has abused a prescription drug at some point in their lifetime) might switch to heroin simply due to economics. Parents should safeguard their medications and explain to their teens that prescription drugs are not “safe” when used inappropriately.
Look for Signs
Common signs that someone is using heroin is shortness of breath, dry mouth, a droopy appearance, small pupils, and quick changes in behavior – perhaps from friendly to aggressive in just a few minutes. When heroin starts to leave the body, the user will experience bad sweats, increased heart rate, feelings of panic, muscle pain, nausea or vomiting, and sleeplessness. The withdrawal is severe, with the body feeling in agony, which is why people, even those determined to get off heroin, often fail to kick their habit without strong professional help.
Heroin is just one of many drugs from which parents need to protect their children. The best way to raise a drug-free teen is:
- Tell your child why you want them to remain drug-free. Inform your child of the risks associated with all drug use – illegal, prescription and over-the-counter. This type of conversation should begin when your child enters middle school and continue throughout their middle and high school years.
- Keep lines of communication open. Nurture a relationship in which teens feel safe talking about anything that is bothering them.
- Role model good behavior for your child. Do not drink alcohol in excess, use a drug for casual or non-medical use, or share prescriptions with family or friends. Use exercise or other stress management techniques to cope with life’s problems.
- Be actively involved in your teen’s life by attending their events, getting to know their friends, visiting their school, and finding activities to do together.
- Keep teens busy with positive activities. Children who have a passion or are meaningfully engaged in sports, academic or social activities are less prone to get involved with drug use. Encourage them to make friends with teens who share their values.