Heroin, The Most Abused Drug

Heroin, an opioid prescribed as an analgesic, cough suppressant and as an anti-diarrheal, is also the most abused drug for its highly euphoric properties. Its abuse has reached the stage of epidemic in the United States where heroin use has more than doubled among young adults aged 18-25 in the past decade.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Heroin use has increased across the U.S. among men and women, most age groups, and all income levels.” While commenting on dire consequences of heroin abuse, the report further states, “As heroin use has increased, so have heroin-related overdose deaths. Between 2002 and 2013, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled when more than 8,200 people died in 2013.”

How dangerous is heroin?

Heroin is an illegal and immensely addictive opioid drug. In case of an overdose, it may lead to slow and shallow breathing, resulting in coma and death. The habit of using heroin in conjunction with other drugs or alcohol is even more dangerous because it multiplies the risk of overdose. Though heroin is normally injected, it is also smoked or snorted. When people inject heroin, they become exposed to long-term viral infections such as HIV, Hepatitis C, and Hepatitis B, as well as bacterial infections of the skin, bloodstream and heart.

The country is already at the threshold of a gnawing addiction problem and heroin is a major contributor to this menace. However, it is commendable what the federal government is doing towards eradicating heroin abuse from the society. A few lauded steps initiated by the federal government are:

Educating and providing resources to healthcare providers and guiding towards appropriate prescribing of opioid painkillers.
Promoting prescription drug monitoring programs as a regular part in clinical practices.
Implementing the Affordable Care Act to provide access to substance abuse treatment services.
Lending support to the development and distribution of naloxone (a life-saving drug), to reduce heroin overdose deaths.
Improvising surveillance mechanism for better tracking of trends, to identify communities at risk and target prevention strategies, etc.

While the federal government is doing its bit, addressing the heroin pandemic needs an effort from everyone in the society ranging from the state, to health workers, to institutions and individuals. Rehab facilities like the drug rehabilitation centers are also contributing by treating addicts throughout and helping millions to beat addiction and get on with life. The drug addiction treatment centers are counted among the best in the country.

Who are at risk of heroin addiction?

It is not difficult to list many well-known people who have had a dangerous liaison with heroin addiction and paid the price. Some of the names include Robert F. Kennedy, Russell Brand, Miles Davis, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, and the list is endless. Although anyone can get hooked on heroin, some are more susceptible and at a greater risk. The CDC identifies the following as prone to heroin addiction more than others:

People who are addicted to prescription opioid painkillers
People who are addicted to cocaine
People without insurance or enrolled in Medicaid
Non-Hispanic whites
People who are addicted to marijuana and alcohol
People living in a large metropolitan area and
18- to 25-year-olds.

So, if you or a loved one is addicted to heroin, step up immediately before any mishap takes place and it results in a tragic end. Heroin addiction, when intervened timely, can be cured and there can be complete recovery for a person.

Prevention and Treatment of Prescription Drug Abuse

What will you do when you find that someone you love abuses prescription drugs and is actually addicted to it? Prescription drug abuse is not a new problem, and continuous monitoring and control is needed to check it.

Many people believe prescription drug is safer and will not produce undesirable effects as it is prescribed by doctors, but it causes compulsive drug seeking and use that is harmful for the addict as well as people around him. Such medications are dangerous and put the users at various physical and mental health-related risks, along with overdose, especially when taken with alcohol.

More than 60 people reportedly die every day in the United States from prescription drug overdoses. Approximately 6.5 million people in the US abused prescription drugs in 2013, which was more than double the number of people who abused heroin, cocaine and hallucinogens in combination. With such statistics, California is now becoming more health-centric by introducing new reforms and spreading awareness among its people.

Are doctors to blame for prescription drug abuse?

Physicians and pharmacists play an important role in identifying and preventing prescription drug abuse. Physicians are the first point of contact for patients who come to them for treatment of various ailments. Physicians should be vigilant enough to identify regular visitors and screen them for abuse risk by checking past records. However, in a bid to obtain multiple prescriptions and avoid being caught, abusers may move from one provider to another.

In this advanced age of information, communication and technology (ICT), storage and tracking of data has become much easier. Pharmacies now have patient data and billing information that can help them record a patient’s medication schedule. However, they need to be watchful about a patient’s alterations and abuse of drugs and by doing so, they can save many people from indulging into addiction. Prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) can be one of the best bets in helping physicians identify patients and their tendencies toward addiction and abuse.

Government’s role in curbing addiction risk

With the aim to help patients grappling with prescription drug abuse, Democratic Assembly member Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) introduced bill AB 623 to make prescriptions for opioid medications harder. The bill required physicians to prescribe abuse-deterrent formulation (ADF) opioids, which offer the same pain relief as conventional opioids. This might deter patients to manipulate and abuse drugs prescribed by physicians.

Dr Wood believes that AB 623 will make it easier for doctors to monitor a patient’s health graph by prescribing less than a 30-day supply of opioids. This may also prevent theft and misuse of pills commonly available over the counter. Pharmacists also need to counsel patients regarding storage and disposal of opioids and make them aware about the risks that drive addiction.

It’s critical that the patient understands the potential risks associated with the long-term use of prescription drugs. Educating patients about this is an important step toward preventing big health issues in the future. You may also inform your physician about your medical history and other medicines or supplements you are taking. Also remember not to consume unused and expired medicines, as per rules laid down by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines.

Prescription Drug Abuse: Watch Out for These Drugs

A pervasive ill plaguing our society is the prescription drug abuse and people of any age group can become its victim. Of all the drugs, antidepressants are more likely to be abused, especially by youngsters. Stimulants and tranquilizers are also commonly abused. It’s better to have knowledge about certain medications that are likely to be abused. Drugs which are predisposed to be abused by somebody fall into three principal categories:

Opioid: These are essentially pain killers which induce a feeling of euphoria in the users.
Tranquilizers: These medicines act as a blanket on the brain, generating a calming effect as a depressant on the central nervous system.
Stimulants: By giving the proverbial kick, stimulants increase brain activity by enhancing alertness and energy level.

Some of the most commonly abused drugs are:

Xanax (alprazolam): This drug falls under the tranquilizer category which depresses the central nervous system of a person. Prescribed to treat panic disorder and serious anxiety, people often abuse Xanax owing to its sedative and relaxing effects. By far this is the most abused drug in the market.

Klonopin & Valium: These drugs also have similar effects like Xanax and are mostly abused for inducing ‘highs’ akin to alcohol. People under the influence of Klonopin & Valium become talkative, feel inebriated and relaxed, just like after a heavy boozing session. These drugs can prove to be lethal in case of an overdose.

Oxycodone: This drug falls under the category of opioid which alters the way the brain reacts to pain. Also known as OxyContin, it induces a euphoric and sedative effect on the user and is often compared with heroin. It is quite expensive and to procure it the addicts often resort to stealing and other petty crimes.

Codeine (Purple Drank): Codeine is primarily used with other medicines to reduce pain and incessant coughing and is used in strong cough syrups. But because of its highly sedative effect, Codeine has made its way to the list of highly abused drugs. When consumed in a high quantity, it can alter the level of consciousness.

Demerol & Darvocet: These drugs were pulled off the shelves in the U.S. in 2010 because of their side effects of contributing to heart ailments. Being painkillers, these medicines bring in immediate results. But over a period of time people become resistant to it and the tolerance level increases significantly. So, as the dosage increases it gives way to a rampant abuse.

Amphetamine: This drug falls under the category of stimulants. Because of its immediate effect on a person, it has earned the sobriquet of ‘speed’. An addict, under its influence, develops a false notion of euphoria, excitement and a sense of wellbeing. It also boosts confidence and motivation level.

Ritalin: Prescribed for the treatment of ADHD, it is used for the central nervous system and often becomes a habit in users leading to any subsequent abuse. Because of the over-the-counter availability and being a frequently prescribed drug, it has become a highly abused prescription drug.