What was once considered a drug used primarily by the homeless population is now affecting every single demographic. When it comes to whom heroin impacts, it does not discriminate whether someone is poor, rich or somewhere in between. Heroin is now everywhere; it is in our neighborhoods, in our schools, and has an increasingly high chance of being in our own homes.
Reasons for the Epidemic
Many are puzzled when they hear the staggering number of people using heroin because of the stigma that comes along with the drug, not to mention the number of high functioning addicts on heroin. We are talking about lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers, etc. What people don’t always realize is that there is almost always a gateway drug that introduces them to a harder drug. In this case, prescribed pain medication acts as the gateway to heroin. In fact, 75% of heroin users started out with a prescription for pain medication and later switched to heroin. Doctors continue to over-prescribe to the point where their patient, becomes absolutely dependent on some type of drug to numb them both physically and eventually emotionally. It doesn’t take long for their pain tolerance to go down which is when they start to need more medication in order to achieve the same effect.
A patient who once swore he’d never try heroin didn’t plan to become addicted to pain medication. In other words, by the time the patient is willing to try heroin, they aren’t making that decision with a conscientious mind. In fact, they are at a point in their life where their one and only concern is “I need relief from my pain and I need it now.” In order to feed their addiction, individuals will do whatever they have to do. Individuals switch to heroin for the following reasons: they either can no longer get their hands on anymore prescriptions from their doctor(s) and/or they can no longer afford their addiction. A prescription can range from anywhere from $30.00-$150.00+ or $20-$30 per pill on the street whereas heroin averages around $5.00-$8.00 per dosage.
So what can we do about it?
Meet a Client Where they Are
With all addicts, there is pain in their lives that they are trying to numb and heroin works great for numbing, both physical and emotional pain. If we take a step back and really take the time to learn about the addict and their past, we can start to figure out what has caused the emotional pain in their lives that is causing them to use in the first place. Just like every human being is different, every addict is vastly different. Therefore, there is absolutely no cookie cutter program for addicts. At Hotel California By the Sea, we understand the importance of meeting our clients where they are in their lives and truly seeing life from their perspective. We believe this is the only way to truly reach them. From there, we believe in creating an individualized program based on our client’s individual pasts, medical and psychological needs, and personal aspirations. Being a dual-diagnosis treatment facility allows us to treat our patient’s addiction while also treating their mental disorders because they go hand-in-hand.
Educate the Public
The truth is that people are in denial that a drug that was once considered a dangerous street drug is now in their own communities, in their child’s school and in their own homes. Being ignorant and judgmental about heroin use and drug addiction in general will not solve the heroin epidemic. In fact, it will only make the problem bigger than it already is. In order to combat this epidemic that is killing our children, our parents, and our neighbors daily is to highlight recovery rather than addiction. As a society, we tend to focus on the negative in people. We continue to put the blame on the person instead of on their behavior. A great example of this recently occurred when the media released a photo of two grandparents who had over-dosed with their four-year-old grandson in the back seat. Rather than portraying a severely sick couple who needed help, they portrayed two grandparents who were disgustingly irresponsible by placing the focus on the child at risk rather than on the disease of addiction these two faced. By stepping back and refraining from judging the addict who is struggling with addiction, we can re-direct society’s focus on the actual solution, which is to get that individual into treatment as soon as possible so that they can be clean and sober and live a beautiful life.
Partner with our Community
If science and data were enough to prove how big this epidemic truly is, our communities wouldn’t be in such denial about its very existence. In order to fight this epidemic, we need a strong advocacy program to shift how society looks at addiction in general and more specifically, heroin addiction. We need to partner with our local high schools, police and fire departments, local and state officials; we need to use our community resources to their absolute fullest potential. This is not a problem we can solve alone. We need as many people on our side as possible. By normalizing the conversation around heroin, both in professional settings and at home, a shift in thinking will certainly occur. We will begin to move away from judging and shaming and move toward acceptance and solution orientated thinking. In reality, this is our only option if we want to combat this problem because if we continue to ignore it, it will only grow.