The state of New Hampshire is currently facing an unlikely epidemic—heroin abuse and addiction has skyrocketed in recent years.
But this problem is not unique to New Hampshire alone. Across the United States, more overdoses are attributed to opioid abuse than ever before. In recent years, New Hampshire’s drug epidemic has reached dramatic highs, with more than 400 drug-related deaths reported in 2015 alone. This number has doubled since 2013, and there appears to be no sign of the rapid pace easing.
The heroin epidemic knows no boundaries and spans across all demographics. In a survey conducted by the University of New Hampshire and WMUR, nearly half of those surveyed stated that they knew at least one person who has abused heroin. What further complicates this problem is the lack of access to substance abuse treatment in New Hampshire. According to a 2014 report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, New Hampshire is second-to-last among all states in access to substance abuse treatment. The current crisis is garnering a great deal of national attention, illustrating why the general population needs to stop stigmatizing drug addiction and start viewing it as a health crisis in need of attention.
Until recently, opioid and heroin abuse did not receive much attention. For many, abusing heroin seems out of the question. Most of the population considers heroin one of the most deadly and dangerous illicit substances in the world, so it can be difficult to understand why heroin abuse is growing so dramatically in recent years. The answer lies in prescription painkillers.
Many people who are addicted to heroin did not begin their addiction by using the drug. Instead, they got their feet wet with prescription painkillers. In recent years, prescriptions for painkillers and other medications have increased dramatically, making them more readily accessible. When taken as prescribed by the person for whom they are prescribed, prescription painkillers and other medications are incredibly effective at treating ailments and other conditions. A person may begin upping their own doses for a variety of reasons, only to find that in order to achieve the desired effects, they must continue to take more. This leads many to develop tolerances and dependencies that eventually lead to addiction. Prescription painkillers and heroin are both opioids, making the transition from prescription drug abuse to heroin abuse seamless. What causes this shift, however, is the difficulty associated with obtaining prescription opioids, changing formulations that make them more difficult to abuse, and the cheap, abundant supply of heroin compared to prescription drugs. While a person can buy an oxycodone pill for $100 on the street, that same money can buy more than 10 doses of heroin, according to experts.
Treating Heroin Addiction
Opioids produce powerful withdrawal symptoms that can be as dangerous or life-threatening as the drugs themselves. For many, the “cold turkey” method is neither safe nor effective. For those struggling with opioid addiction, it is important for initial withdrawal to occur in a safe, medically-supervised environment. This ensures that proper treatment is readily available should complications arise.
Due to the fact that many who struggle with heroin addiction initially abused prescription painkillers, it is important to diagnose and treat any co-occurring disorders a person many have. Co-occurring disorders are common among those suffering from addiction and are often one of the driving forces behind substance abuse. Dual diagnosis treatment provides clients with care for both addiction and any mental health disorders that may have influenced the development of addiction. Treating the conditions together minimizes the likelihood of relapse and helps clients develop healthy coping mechanisms to further support sobriety.
There are several signs and symptoms that may indicate a person has a problem with heroin. These include:
- Burnt spoons
- Dark, sticky residue
- Small glass pipes
- Rubber tubing
- Tiny bags
- Runny nose
- Flushed skin
- Slurred speech
- Lack of hygiene
- Wearing long sleeves to cover forearms
Many who struggle with heroin addiction are unaware of the damage it wreaks on their lives. They may neglect their own needs to focus solely on acquiring and abusing heroin. The longer heroin abuse persists, the more dramatic a toll it takes on physical appearance and overall health. In some cases, a heroin addict may ask for help, but for the most part, they fear the pain of withdrawal and the possibility of rejection. Knowing the signs and symptoms of heroin abuse can put you in a position to detect a problem and arrange for treatment. While a person may attempt to conceal symptoms of drug abuse, it is important for friends and family to remain vigilant and help them get to rehab. With proper care, it is possible to overcome heroin addiction and live a happy, sober life