The use of hard drugs in America is on a steady rise. Heroin is one of the biggest reasons for this. Heroin is one of the most dangerous highly addictive drugs on the black market today. A board member on the National Institute of Health estimated that there are currently about 600,000 heroin addicts in the U.S. alone. Only an estimated 115,000 thousand of those addicts have been admitted into a treatment program. As the demand grows greater for this substance, the purity gets greater, the market gets bigger and the problem gets worse.
Heroin is an illegal, highly addictive drug. It is both the most abused and the most rapidly growing drug in the opiate family. It is typically sold as a white or brownish powder. There is also a form that is black and sticky known on the streets as “black tar heroin”. Opiates are drugs that are derived from a naturally occurring substance found in the poppy plant. Although the purity of the heroin that reaches the streets is becoming greater, most street heroin is cut or diluted. Usually this is done with another drug, or a substance such as sugar, starch, powdered milk, or quinine. Street heroin can also be cut with strychnine or other poisons.
The reason heroin is one of the most deadly drugs is because there are varying rates at which the drug is diluted. Therefore a user never knows exactly how pure the drug is, hence, they do not know how much of the drug they should take, often leading to an overdose. Like alcohol, heroin is a depressant that slows down all the body functions. But heroin differs from alcohol in two very significant ways. It does not destroy body organs, like the liver or kidney, the way alcohol does.
That is why heroin dependency can last for years. Second, an abuser usually does not die from the symptoms experienced from the withdrawal although it may often feel like the user’s body is being torn from the inside out. This is so unpleasant it drives many addicts back for another hit. The deaths associated with heroin are from overdosing rather than withdrawal. These so-called good differences are now being peddled to a new generation that has been bombarded with the negative effects of other addictive drugs like alcohol and cocaine.
There are three common ways in which to take the drug. The most common form is intravenously through a needle. You can also sniff the powder form, or smoke it. Because needles are often the most popular way to take the drug, making needle sharing a very common practice. This leaves heroin users with a high risk of catching HIV, hepatitis, or a number of other diseases. The National Institute of Health released data, which said that up to 50 percent of all heroin users eventually contract HIV.
These startling numbers have pushed some city’s to starting programs that provide free needles for anyone that wants them, in theory cutting down on needle sharing. These programs are in huge debate among congress. One side says that the needle sharing programs do not show significant cuts on needle sharing, but what they do accomplish is promoting the use of heroin, and making it easier. The other side of the argument says that in cities where the needle sharing programs were put into effect; the rate of HIV went down considerably. HIV, and AID’s contraction rates, has proven to be directly related to the amount of heroin users in an area.
How heroin is perceived by the American public-
Often heroin is perceived very differently, depending on what person you are talking to. Among middle and upper class adults in America, the drug is often shunned. Many people in this status seem to block out that fact that the drug or a problem with it even exists, because they themselves are rarely directly subjected to viewing the drug taking hold of someone’s life. This ignorance of it, is often what blinds them to the fact that their very own child or niece or nephew maybe getting involved with it. Although middle and upper class Americans like to ignore the fact that there is a problem with the drug, there ideas about it change when their kid is rushed to the emergency room from and overdose, or a heroin addict trying to support his or her habit robs them.
Where as middle and upper class Americans like to deny the fact that millions of Americans suffer from them or someone they know using the drug, lower class Americans are often very aware of it, and effected by it. In the inner city, heroin use is not uncommon, and most of the lower class adults in America live in the inner city, so that it has become an everyday part of life for many of them. The heavy use of this drug, and the crime associated with it often leave the inner city’s run down and economically unstable. Making it very hard for even straight clean people to survive themselves let alone feed a family.
Teenagers of course have a completely different understanding of drugs in general. Where they are curious and open minded about such things, adults are not. Upper and middle class suburban teenagers usually don’t know much about the drug or what it does. This is the same ignorance that often leads them into using it. Often to this culture, heroin is just something that they see stories on the news about, but they feel that they would never do such a thing, until they do it. As far as the lower class teenager goes, it is an entirely different story. These kids are often brought up seeing it used and sold on a daily basis by the time they reach 12 or 13.
What brings these kids to use it is usually curiosity of it. Seeing it everyday they begin to wonder what its all about. The poor poverty life that comes with the use of it, does not seem that bad to them, because that is what they are used to. The American government sees heroin as a widely growing problem, and is often considered a growing epidemic. There has been large debate as of recently, about how exactly an addiction to this drug should be treated. Often the addicts of this drug are look at by the rest of society as trash not worth saving. Heroin addicts almost always realize they have a major problem, but usually feel that the effort needed to quit, is just not worth it. They realize it is a problem but they are content with it.
What the drug does to the family and people around the user-
Heroin is a drug that destroys entire families. As the user starts to use heroin at first, it seems there is no problem, the parents of the user often don’t even know about it. But almost always, the user will start stealing from their parents and family and even friends. When caught and cornered the addict will usually rebel in some way.
This often turns into a huge fight. It isn’t until a blowout fight like one of these happens, that the parents of the user finally realize that THEIR kid is a heroin addict. Many times younger siblings will follow in the path of their older sibling, and the cycle will start over again. Many heroin addicts are out on the street by themselves even by the age of 16 and sometimes less. The actions of the children in these family’s many times lead to the parents divorce. Slowly but surely, like an infection, the drug will tear apart almost any family that it encounters.
A long dark path to addiction-
Heroin is a drug that can reach anyone. From a middle school honor roll student, to a college grad that made the dean’s list, to a prostitute on the streets of Los Angeles. The path to heroin starts out very innocently. A rebellious teenager gives into a lot of peer pressure, and decides to take a hit of a cigarette. Once that is done, that downward spiral starts. After the teenager has become numb to the idea that cigarettes are bad, alcohol seems more and more enticing. After the rush of getting drunk becomes a bore, Marijuana may come into play. Once a teenager reaches this point, there are really two roads that they can choose.
The one road, leads them into harder more powerful drugs, with greater addictions, such as heroin. The other road is a teenager that decides, enough is enough, and still has a chance to turn back and write off the previous drug use as any teenager rebellion. Much to often the first path is followed. Once the subject decides to take that first hit of the drug, it is almost always completely downhill from there.
The type of people to go down the deadly path of heroin addiction, are often those that come from low-income struggling families with a past of drug addiction. To these people, heroin and other hard drugs just seem like the natural thing to do. The disturbing thing is that even a kid from a upper middle class family on his or her way to college, can also be engulfed by the clothes of heroin. These users are usually the same people that 5 years ago, told themselves that they would never do such a thing.
Users of heroin are often people that like to live on the edge. These are the sorts of self-destructive people that give themselves an artificial happiness by putting themselves or others in dangerous situations. One anonymous user of heroin was quoted say this,” I am a fifty-nine year old man who first started to use heroin as a student at a Connecticut prep school in 1955. My father planned for me to attend Yale University and Yale Law School, but I always took the easiest way out in those years, becoming addicted to heroin at sixteen and leaving school at seventeen to live on the streets of Harlem.” This is a classic example of the user that never believed that it would happen to them.
Heroin and other hard drugs are ways for kids to rebel against society. It is there way of giving society “the finger”. Often drug campaign’s are too based on telling kids not to do the drug, where they should be trying to inform kids on what the drug can do to you and everyone you care about. If more kids knew exactly what they were getting into before they decided to take that first hit, maybe they could find a less destructive way of rebelling. The media is not helping, with the portrayal of the heroin addict model, living the high-life in Manhattan, or the street-wise guy in a movie called Pulp Fiction, heroin is almost glamorized.
The big attraction to heroin for most kids and young adults though, is the fact that it is the last thing that society wants them to do. Instead of preaching against the use of heroin, maybe somebody needs to preach about it.