The Scourge of Heroin Addiction

close up of hands drawing heroin into a syringe from a spoon featuring a disposable lighter and a small amount of the drug on the table next to it

The Scourge of Heroin Addiction

The Scourge of Heroin Addiction

the-scourge-of-heroin-addiction
Abuse of heroin and opiates occurs worldwide

According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report on psychosocial and pharmacological treatment of opioid addiction and abuse, there are over 9 million people worldwide who abuse heroin. Another 8 million reportedly use other opiates. In another report, the WHO indicated that there was a global increase in the production, transportation and consumption of heroin.

Brief History of Opiate Use

  • 3400 BC-First recorded use of opium in Mesopotamia.
  • 1300 BC-Egyptians had a flourishing opium trade throughout Greece, Carthage and Europe.
  • 330 BC-Alexander the Great introduced opium to Persia and India.
  • 400 AD-Arab traders brought opium to China.
  • 1874-C.R. Wright, an English researcher, first synthesized heroin and San Francisco banned opium dens.
  • 1895-The Bayer Company of Germany began production of heroin
  • 1898-Commercial distribution of heroin began

source: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/heroin/etc/history.html

Heroin Addiction: a Global Problem

Recently, National Geographic produced a show profiling several Chicago heroin addicts. It explored heroin use, trade and distribution.

The heroin addict on the streets of Chicago is no different than the heroin addict on the streets of Iran, a country whose people suffer from extremely high rates of heroin addiction. In Europe, four out five drug-related deaths involve opiates, mainly heroin. Individuals across the world quickly succumb to the bondage of heroin addiction. The demand is great and secure trade routes are constantly being sought to ensure shipments. The US State Department’s 2011 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report indicated that France was a major transshipment point for drugs moving through Europe, including heroin. According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), 46,886 people entered drug treatment programs in France in 2009. 42.6% of those people  were using opioids. Other European countries have equally alarming rates of opiate abuse. A 2011 EMCDDA news alert reported that “Heroin use continues to account for the largest share of drug-related diseases and deaths in the EU.”  Heroin-related causes of death include overdose, suicide, trauma and infectious diseases. source: http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/news/2011/8 In addition to its negative health effects, heroin abuse also has social and economic consequences. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (ONODC), the Taliban has boosted cultivation levels of opium in the last few years and has used the income to finance terrorist activities. Over the past few years, the number of heroin abusers and addicts in Afghanistan has soared. Opium is changed to heroin in Afghanistan and shipped through Iran to Turkey. From Turkey, it is transported across the globe. Iranian police are cracking down on transport routes in an attempt stop the flow of heroin across borders and reduce heroin addiction. source: http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/Studies/Afghan-Drug-Survey-2009-Executive-Summary-web.pdf

Heroin Addiction and Infectious Diseases

A large portion of heroin users inject the drug to get its effects within seconds. However, injecting the drug leaves many users vulnerable to diseases such as HIV, AIDS, hepatitis and other blood borne infections. Sharing needles can also lead to other health problems such as collapsed veins, pulmonary problems, circulation problems and liver, kidney and brain damage. Several studies looking at the transmission of HIV have found a direct link between intravenous drug users (IDU) and risky sexual behaviors. Healthy judgment is altered by drugs. It is not uncommon for drug addicts to sell their bodies in exchange for drugs or drug money to support their habit.

Heroin Detox and Heroin Addiction Treatment

Heroin addiction is difficult to break on one’s own and withdrawal symptoms can be intense. For many years, heroin detox involved placing patients on methadone. However, while some found methadone to be a lifesaving drug that enabled them to function normally, others became addicted to the methadone. Today, other non-addictive medications such as Subutex and Suboxone have been developed so that addicts can detox without switching their heroin addiction for a methadone addiction. Subutex and Suboxone are specifically designed for short-term use in detoxification. Once a heroin addict has successfully detoxed, an integrated, comprehensive, medically based dual diagnosis treatment program is necessary. Heroin addiction is powerful and encompasses one’s daily life. Those who have suffered long-term addiction to heroin often suffer greater chances of mental health disorders as well. A drug rehabilitation program with integrated dual diagnosis treatment is best equipped to treat a heroin addict with a coexisting mental health disorder achieve sobriety. Abstinence from drugs and alcohol is possible with the help of a good drug rehabilitation program that encompasses:

  • Individualized aftercare plan
  • Attendance at 12 Step meetings
  • Individual and Group Therapy

Treatment can restore you. Time and again, drug treatment programs have been demonstrated to work.