Headlines recently announced the death of Cory Monteith, one of the stars of the TV show “Glee.” Looking at the fresh-faced young man, you’d never suspect that he struggled with alcohol and drugs. But experts say he fits the new profile of heroin users.
Many Americans are not aware of the new realities of heroin use among kids, teens and young adults. In fact, according to statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Monteith largely fits the new profile of a heroin user: a white male in his 30s.
“I deal with drug users every day,” Dr. Richard Clark, an emergency room physician and director of toxicology at the University of California San Diego Medical Center, told NBC News. “The stereotypical user on the street? That’s the past as far as heroin use in the U.S. is concerned. Lots of people are using it these days – kids, teenagers, white-collar workers.”
Many of the young adults using heroin started when they were teenagers. Many of them live in suburbs and rural communities. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), documented an alarming 80 percent increase in first use of heroin among teens since 2002.
In 2009, 510 teens and young adults between 15 and 24 died of a heroin overdose, up from 198 a decade earlier.
“People think it’s totally impossible that they could know somebody who could be on that trajectory,” said Caleb Banta-Green, a research scientist at the University of Washington School of Public Health who writes frequently about heroin use. Monteith, Banta-Green said, “is what a heroin user looks like.”
Heroin is now cheaper and more plentiful than in the past. Where heroin was once obtained from the Far East and Southwest Asia, it is now transported into the U.S. from South America and Mexico making it much more affordable and easier to get. Heroin is also coming in from Afghanistan where production has steadily increased.
Why is heroin becoming popular among teens? One reason may be because the U.S. government has made a strong push to crack down on prescription opiates, a popular drug of choice among kids. Drugs like Oxycodone and other painkillers are now harder to get and more expensive. Heroin, on the other hand, is cheap and plentiful. It also packs a stronger punch or “rush.”
Heroin use dropped sharply during the height of the late 1980s-1990s AIDS crisis because drug users didn’t want to risk injections. Now, though, heroin is often snorted or smoked, giving it the same kind of ease of use, and even societal popularity that cocaine once had.
When a heroin user overdoses, they often just stop breathing. While most teen drug users are not typically going to be snorting or injecting heroin when they are in the middle of a crowd, they may be consuming a lot of alcohol. Once they get home they may decide to top off the evening with heroin. That can be a deadly combination especially when they are in their room and no one knows to check on them.
Too many parents think that their child doesn’t fit the typical heroin user stereotype. They are simply unaware that heroin is the new “in” drug and it’s in the schools, on the playgrounds and in the malls. Dealers may be kids that you’ve known since they were little.
The sad news of Cory Monteith’s death shocked his fans, friends and family. He reportedly had been struggling with alcohol and drug abuse since his early teens. After a recent stay in rehab, many thought he had licked his demons and was on the way to a true recovery. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. He made the decision to give heroin one more try and this time it killed him.
Heroin is extremely addictive. It doesn’t play favorites. It doesn’t care if you are rich, middle-class or poor. Whether you live in a mansion, a suburb or the inner city. It treats everyone exactly the same way and it can quickly stop a heart.
If you suspect that your child is using ANY drugs, make it your business to find out for sure. And if they are – get them the help they need to deal with whatever is causing their use. It will not make you popular, but it may save your child’s life.
Source: Brian Alexander, http://www.nbcnews.com/health/glee-stars-od-shows-new-fresh-face-heroin-6C10658371