Category Archives: Addiction

Addiction to heroin is a powerful obstacle to overcome. The resources listed below will provide educational material for you and your loved one struggling from the affliction.

Effects of Heroin on the Brain

inhaling heroin how it effects the brainThere’s a new and disturbing trend among heroin users that involves inhaling heroin instead of injecting, sniffing or snorting it. “Chasing the dragon” is what this method of heroin ingestion is called. It involves heating heroin in a pipe and inhaling the fumes.

Chasing the dragon has become a popular way to use heroin because it protects users from the hazards of injection. For example, shooting up, which is another name for injecting, can cause skin abscesses. Sharing needles with other users can facilitate the spread of infectious diseases like AIDS and hepatitis.

Hazards of Chasing the Dragon

Chasing the dragon has been identified as a new threat to health according to a recent study about the effects of heroin on brain function published in JAMA Neurology. According to researchers, inhalation does offer protection against the hazards of shooting up. However, it can also cause dementia, coma, irreversible brain damage and death.

One of the lead researchers, neurologist Ciro Ramos-Estebanez of the University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center in Ohio, learned in 2015 of an unusual side effect in a woman who had been inhaling heroin.

The woman had fallen into a coma caused by hydrocephalus. That’s an excessive buildup of spinal fluid in the brain. The hydrocephalus was caused by chronic inflammation of the brain, and the inflammation was caused by regular heroin inhalation. Although the woman recovered from her coma following emergency surgery to remove the trapped spinal fluid, she suffered from side effects of heroin on brain function. Her symptoms included permanent cognitive impairment.

Hydrocephalus Connected to Heroin Use: A New Phenomenon?

This was the first case of hydrocephalus that had ever been reported in connection with heroin inhalation. Because hydrocephalus is not recognized by health professionals as a side effect of heroin, Dr. Ramos-Estebanez decided to explore the issue further and to identify the reasons behind it.

Dr. Ramos-Estebanez and his team examined over 30 case studies. The reports included two incidents that had involved patients at their own hospital. Based on this study, the team came to some interesting conclusions regarding the inhalation of heroin.

Although there’s little official information about the frequency of heroin inhalation, the information available indicates that inhalation is more common than most health professionals realize. This method of ingestion is currently on the rise, and it’s quickly becoming the most popular way to use.

More than two-thirds of heroin users in India and Norway admit that they regularly inhale heroin. Available information also suggests that inhalation is becoming popular among teenagers in large urban areas east of the Mississippi. In 2014, 21 percent of all heroin-related inpatient hospital visits by teenagers between 12 and 19 years old were due to heroin inhalation. This method of drug ingestion appears to have become a global phenomenon, and it’s currently reaching epidemic proportions in the eastern United States.

Side Effects of Heroin Inhalation

The side effects of heroin inhalation range from mild to severe. There can be mild memory loss and long-term cognitive impairment at one end of the continuum. The worst-case scenario at the other end can involve killing off cells and creating spongy holes in the brain’s white matter. White matter consists of connective tissue through which brain cells communicate. Damaged white matter is associated with seizures, progressive dementia, trouble speaking, coma and death.

A Potent and Toxic High

There is growing concern that chasing the dragon will make heroin more accessible because needles and other drug paraphernalia are no longer a part of getting high; all users need is a pipe. Users also report that the intensity of the high from inhaling is much greater than with snorting or sniffing. That could account for greater interest in heroin by those who previously did not use it and increased consumption of heroin by those who do use it.

The JAMA researchers hypothesized that heating heroin to the high temperature required for inhalation changes it into a chemical that easily crosses the blood-brain barrier and reaches the brain immediately. This barrier normally screens out harmful substances. However, vaporized heroin crosses the blood-brain barrier so quickly that there’s no chance for it to be metabolized by the body into a less harmful substance before it enters the brain. The faster heroin enters the brain, the greater the high and the more addictive the drug becomes. The result is a seductively potent high that’s directly harmful to the brain.

Inhaling Heroin: An Emerging Public Health Problem

Based on the results of the study, Ramos-Estebanez said that medical professionals who treat heroin users should be aware of the practice of heroin inhalation and of the risks involved. Ramos-Estebanez calls heroin inhalation “an emerging public health problem.” However, he believes that lives can be saved if the symptoms are recognized early. In fact, researchers have already identified drugs that could prevent catastrophic brain damage if they are administered early on.

Risks Associated With Long-term Heroin Use

Regardless of the method of ingestion, the long-term effects of heroin on brain function can be catastrophic. The most notable effects are long-term changes in hormonal levels and shifts in the brain’s neuron system. These changes are not easily reversed and can cause discomfort for those trying to kick the habit. The white matter of the brain is damaged regardless of how the drug is ingested, and this damage affects decision-making, behavioral regulation and the ability to cope with stress.

Heroin quickly creates high levels of tolerance. That means the dose must be increased regularly. Heroin also causes severe physical dependence, and withdrawal symptoms occur rapidly if drug use is reduced or stopped. Within hours after the last dose, withdrawal symptoms kick in. They can include diarrhea, vomiting, repetitive movements of the legs, muscle and bone pain, restlessness, insomnia and an acute sensitivity to cold. Symptoms are most intense during the first 48 hours. In a best-case scenario, the symptoms ease off after that.

The faster heroin reaches the brain, the more intense the high and the greater the risk of developing heroin use disorder. A heroin use disorder can range from mild to severe, and the most severe form is addiction. With this chronic condition, users cannot get clean or stay clean on their own. The craving for drugs causes the user to do whatever is necessary to get heroin regardless of the consequences. Getting and using the drug consume a user’s entire life, and heroin ingestion continues even when the use of the drug causes serious and life-threatening health problems.

Subjective Effects of Heroin When Smoked, Injected, Snorted or Sniffed

Heroin converts to morphine in the brain and quickly binds to opioid receptors to produce a pleasurable sensation called a rush. The rush can be accompanied by a pleasantly warm flush, heavy extremities and a dry mouth. Depending on the dose, there may be “nodding out.” That occurs when a user vacillates between a conscious and a semi-conscious state.

Users may also experience vomiting, nausea and extreme itching. The initial rush is usually followed by slowed-down breathing and a decreased heart rate. If enough of the drug has been ingested, slowed-down breathing can lead to coma, permanent brain damage and death.

Physical Effects of Heroin on the Brain

Heroin slows down breathing by impacting neurochemical activity in the brain stem. The brain stem controls automatic body functions like heart rate, blood pressure and breathing. Heroin also impacts the limbic system, which governs emotional states, sleep and pleasure. Heroin is a pain reliever, and that pain relief is delivered via the spinal cord.

Brain Damage Caused by Heroin and Methadone

Methadone is a synthetic drug used to treat those with heroin use disorder. Patients visit a clinic and are dispensed a dose of methadone powder mixed with juice that keeps withdrawal symptoms at bay for 24 hours. Methadone maintenance, as it’s called, is thought to be safer than heroin because it’s ingested orally and administered in a clinic, and it involves neither injections nor inhalation.

Researchers in a study at the University of Edinburgh published their results in the Journal of Neuropathology and Applied Neurobiology. The study examined the effects of heroin on brain function  in 34 heroin and methadone users who had died at an average age of 26 years. Their brains were compared to the brains of 16 young adults who were not drug users but who had died young.

The researchers found that opioid users’ brains were up to three times more likely to have sustained brain damage when compared to the brains of those who did not use drugs. The drug users’ brains were similar to the brains of older people, and they had brain damage similar to that found in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers called this effect the premature aging of the brain.

The brains of deceased heroin and methadone users had damaged nerve cells in brain areas associated with memory, learning and emotional well-being compared to the brains of those who did not use heroin or methadone.

Drug users’ brains were similar to the brains of people experiencing early Alzheimer’s disease. Their brains showed “significantly higher levels of two key proteins associated with brain damage.” Heroin and methadone have also been linked to low-grade brain inflammation.

Brain Damage and Cellular Death

The researchers found that a key brain protein called Tau, which facilitates communication between brain cells, had become insoluble in certain cells. That, in turn, caused nerve cell damage and even cellular death in certain areas of the brain.

There was also an accumulated level of amyloid precursor protein. This suggested that there had been a disruption of protein transport in the brain at a cellular level. Protein buildup can cause serious nerve cell damage and death in key parts of the brain that are essential for healthy functioning.

Other Effects of Heroin on the Brain

Neurotransmitters in the brain that regulate pain, pleasurable feelings and hormonal release are all affected by heroin, methadone and morphine. Opioid drugs increase pleasure and reduce pain. These drugs stimulate the brain’s reward centers, which, in turn, creates a craving for more drugs. In healthy brains, these centers are stimulated by naturally occurring neurotransmitters. With drugs, the presence of these naturally occurring neurotransmitters is reduced or limited. That creates a dependence on drugs to provide normal levels of stimulation.

Heroin Inhalation and Asthma

Inhaling heroin can be dangerous for those with asthma. Three asthmatic patients in Britain required mechanical ventilation soon after inhaling heroin. Two patients died due to acute severe asthma after inhaling heroin. Two asthmatic patients refused to stop inhaling heroin despite the health risks.

Heroin Inhalation Thought by Users to Decrease Risk of Infectious Diseases Caused by Injection

Half of all U.S. heroin users live in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Up to 80 percent of users in clinics report that they no longer inject heroin. One-third of those who enter drug rehabilitation for heroin use disorder say they’re snorting, sniffing and inhaling heroin to guard against infectious diseases like AIDS.

Treatment for Heroin Use

Treatment for heroin use disorder generally involves an inpatient stay in a medical detox facility during which users are gradually weaned from the drug. After the patient is stabilized, he or she may participate in treatment modalities like education, individual and group counseling and medication.

Most recovering heroin users are encouraged to attend support group meetings like Narcotics Anonymous. Recovery also involves developing the ability to deal with the urge to use and learning techniques to reduce the effects of triggers that could lead to a relapse.

Some treatment programs even use devices to help curb withdrawal symptoms. In 2017, the FDA approved the use of an electronic stimulation device. Known as the NSS-2 Bridge, the device is placed behind the ear and helps to reduce withdrawal symptoms by sending electrical pulses to stimulate certain key nerves in the brain.

It’s entirely possible to recover from a heroin use disorder, but it’s best not to do it by yourself. There is plenty of help available that can take you from a medically supervised detox to residency in a sober house. Treatment options include both inpatient and outpatient programs that can be long- or short-term depending on your needs.

Substance Abuse & the Elderly: A Growing Issue

Senior-Alcohol-AbuseBe prejudiced for a moment. In your mind, picture a drug addict. Picture a jobless, alcoholic man with a Xanax addiction who lives alone and can barely afford to pay his utility bills. He’s so out of touch with modern society that he doesn’t have a computer, and rarely does he receive visitors. Now you should have an image of this man in your mind. Regardless of any other feature, did you expect him to be 78 years old?

This man is not real, but the problem of substance abuse among the elderly is very real. More than 2.5 million elderly people have a substance abuse problem in this country. It is, in fact, “one of the fastest growing health problems facing the country.” However, for reasons we will explore, “our awareness, understanding and response to this health care problem is inadequate,” according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

Nearly 10% of hospital visits among the elderly are caused by substance abuse. The same goes for 14% of their trips to the emergency room and for 20% of their psychiatric hospital admissions. Widowers aged 75 and over have the highest alcoholism rate in the nation. Half of nursing home residents battle alcoholism. High rates of prescription pill abuse and misuse are common among the elderly.

There are some evidence-based reasons for why the elderly face their own substance abuse epidemic, as well as some implicit causes for why this is so. Also, some factors only serve to worsen the issue, such as living alone or the fact that doctors are less likely to refer the elderly to substance abuse recovery programs.

Reasons, Causes, and Contributing Factors

Many reasons exist, both physical and psychological, for why the elderly may turn to drugs or alcohol. The majority of these reasons are unique to the elderly age group. Certain life situations can cause the elderly to self-medicate. Another cause for elderly substance abuse regards the lifestyle of their particular generation, the baby-boomers. Also, especially regarding prescription drugs, the elderly face an over-saturation of medicine as an age group. Over one half of the elderly currently take three or more different prescription pills a day.

Let it be noted that there are essentially two types of elderly substance abusers, those who had begun abusing early and continue to in old age, and those who start abusing in old age. People over 65 who have abused drugs and/or alcohol throughout their lives are nicknamed ‘hardy survivors,’ and those who begin later in life are nicknamed ‘late onset’ substance abusers. Obviously the hardy survivors are more at risk than the late onset abusers, but substance abuse remains as deep a problem for one as it does for the other.

Reasons why the elderly may turn to substance abuse:

  • Depression due to the children being grown and gone
  • Loss of identity and/or financial hardship due to no longer working
  • Feelings of dependence due to the need for assisted-living
  • Friends are fewer and further away
  • Physical and/or mental health problems
  • Death of a longtime partner or loved one
  • Physical pains of aging, including loss of mobility
  • Boredom

These are reasons why an elderly person might continue to abuse (hardy survivors) or start to abuse (late onset) drugs and/or alcohol. People move away, jobs must be left, health is deteriorating, and loneliness occurs more often than ever. There are also more increasingly complicated factors that contribute to this growing problem.

Medically speaking, substance abuse in the elderly can be difficult for doctors to recognize and diagnose. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, “Diagnosis [of substance abuse] may be difficult because symptoms of substance abuse in older individuals sometimes mimic symptoms of other medical and behavioral disorders common among this population, such as diabetes, dementia, and depression.” If the substance abuse goes unrecognized, no treatment gets provided.

Another medical contribution to the problem stems from research done in 1982. The researchers found there was a “decline in encounter time for patients 65 years of age and older compared with those 45 through 64 years of age.” If people over sixty-five with substance abuse problems are not being diagnosed as such, and are also not being seen by doctors as long as others, it’s almost no wonder this is a growing problem.

Lastly, today’s elderly people consider substance abuse very much a private matter, and may feel great shame which leads to reclusion. The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment explains that due to this possible shame, the elderly are much less likely to seek professional help on their own. The same actually goes for the friends and family of the elderly, especially for their children. “Many relatives of older individuals with substance use disorders, particularly their adult children, are also ashamed of the problem and choose not to address it.”

The Baby-Boom Generation

If you were born between 1946 and 1964, you are considered a ‘baby-boomer.’ The baby boom was a spike in the birth rate that occurred after World War II. There were 76 million children born in America during this time, and the birth rate reached levels unseen since the 1920s. These baby-boomers, according to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, “had much higher rates of illicit drug use as teenagers and young adults than people born in earlier years.”

Statistics suggest that baby-boomers continued patterns of substance abuse with them through time. Approximately 3 million baby-boomers have a diagnosable substance abuse problem. Up to 25% of them binge drink alcohol, with nearly 10% of them alcoholics. Alcohol is the most commonly abused substance among the baby-boomers, and among the elderly, but is by no means the sole substance of choice.

For the first time ever, both the accidental drug overdose rate and the opioid abuse hospitalization rate are higher for baby-boomers than for those currently aged 25 – 44. According to The Wall Street Journal, between 1990 and 2010 “the rate of death by accidental drug overdose for people between ages 45 and 64 increased eleven-fold.” Annually, a drug abuse survey is conducted by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. In 2012, the survey showed that less than 20% of those aged 65 and over had ever used illicit drugs, but for those aged 64 and under, nearly half had used them.

What this all means is that baby-boomers as a generation contribute greatly to the present issue of elderly substance abuse. This notion was summarized well by Dr. Wilson Compton, deputy director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse: “As the baby boomers have aged and brought their habits with them into middle age, and now into older adult groups, we are seeing marked increases in overdose deaths.”

The baby-boomers are not the only ones to blame. A large portion of current baby-boomers do not even qualify as elderly. On the same token, there are members of the elderly who abuse substances but are not baby-boomers. One might argue that the biggest contributor to elderly substance abuse outside of the baby-boomers is prescription pill abuse and misuse.


Prescription Pills and the Elderly

prescription pillsThe elderly consume almost one-third of prescription pills in America, yet only make up 13% of the population. Putting that into real numbers, approximately 4 billion prescriptions are written each year in our country, which has a population of 319 million. Essentially this means that the 41.5 million elderly people in this country receive 1.2 billion prescriptions per year. That’s 29 prescriptions a year for every single elderly person in America. Granted, not all of the prescriptions written for the elderly are abused for recreational purposes. However, let’s take this further…

Studies have shown up to 23% of all prescriptions given to the elderly are benzodiazepines. This class of drugs is known to be sedative, hypnotic (sleep-inducing), and muscle-relaxant. The most common benzodiazepine is Valium. Well over 10 million people report abusing Valium per year, making it the third most abused tranquilizer in the US. The number of hospital visits involving benzodiazepines increased six-fold between 1999 and 2011.

Abusing prescription pills isn’t the only way they can be damaging to the elderly. Misuse of a legal drug occurs when the medical directions are not followed. Misuse could mean taking too many pills at once, and could also mean taking the right amount of pills but too frequently. Misuse can be committed voluntarily or by accident. According to the Center for Applied Research Solutions, the elderly “are particularly vulnerable to prescription drug misuse.” You may recall from previously in this text that the elderly are seen for less time by doctors than any other age group. This may be resulting in the elderly being misinformed on the pills they have. This and several other factors make prescription pill abuse and misuse (as well as other illicit drug/alcohol abuse) especially dangerous for the elderly.

Substance Abuse is More Dangerous for the Elderly

As we age, our minds and bodies tend to fail us slowly. Because of this, the dangers elderly people face when abusing substances are greater than they are for other demographics. Specific dangers exist for those over 65 who engage in drug and/or alcohol abuse.

  • The elderly are much less likely to be referred to a specialist by family, friends, or medical professionals.
  • Substance abuse is not often detected among the elderly. This is due to living alone more commonly than others, being less willing to share this information with others, or because the effects of aging are similar to those of substance abuse.
  • Older people take multiple medications at once more often than other people do. This is rather dangerous because of possible adverse effects from misuse or from mixing these drugs with alcohol.
  • It is all too easy for an addicted elderly person to assume they are too far gone to change, that they don’t have enough reason to quit.
  • Tolerance decreases with age. This means what might have been a normal amount to an elderly person at one time could actually cause overdose.
  • Enzymes in the liver that process alcohol decrease in volume as people get older. This means alcohol abuse among the elderly can cause liver diseases more rapidly.
  • Intoxication often leads to falling down or making other poor decisions, which can be sufficiently more dangerous for an elderly person.
  • Less responsibility and fewer commitments means less holding back from abusing among the elderly. Job loss and parenting are not concerns for them.
  • Due to natural aging processes, the elderly are simply much more affected by substance abuse than those under 65.

In Conclusion

Unfortunately, it is predicted that the number of elderly people with substance abuse issues is rising. Part of this is population-based, since those aged 65-70 are the part of the populous growing the fastest. However, a large part of this remains due to a lack of knowledge. Elderly substance abuse is known as a ‘hidden dilemma.’

Said best by the US National Library of Medicine, substance abuse among the elderly will only cease when further means of prevention are instilled into the medical community. The quote:

“Studies have shown that intentional abuse of prescription drugs is increasing among all age groups. As the number of persons 65 years of age and older skyrockets with the aging of the baby boomers, experts predict that prescription drug abuse among the elderly also will rise significantly. Efforts to increase awareness of drug abuse among elderly patients, caregivers, and health care practitioners, as well as research into how best to prevent and treat the elderly drug abuser, will be necessary to thwart what could become a significant public health problem.”

Homeless, Addicted, Incarcerated – Breaking the Cycle


Homelessness is an epidemic on its own. On any given night, over 630,000 people in the US are homeless. For obvious reasons, the homeless suffer from a multitude of issues, including hunger, sleeplessness, harassment, and hypothermia in seasonal areas. Sadly, one quarter of all homeless people are children. Over 55,000 are veterans. An astonishing ninety percent of homeless women “are victims of severe physical or sexual abuse, and escaping that abuse is a leading cause of their homelessness.” Other reasons for becoming homeless include mental illness, depression, and job loss. (One in five homeless people exhibit symptoms of mental illness).homeless

Many of our nation’s homeless people start out leading a normal American life. In fact, the vast majority of the homeless have recently held jobs. A study was conducted in New York City at the Franklin Avenue shelter that showed only one percent of homeless people report having never held a job. However, up to 75% of homeless people were shown to have a drug and/or alcohol addiction. Oftentimes drug abuse is the reason for the downfall.


Another common infliction faced by the homeless is drug and/or alcohol addiction. The single leading cause of death among the homeless for many years was HIV, but recently drug overdoses have surpassed HIV as the leading cause. A study conducted in Boston showed drug overdoses to be the leading cause of death among the homeless, even more frequent than cancer, heart disease or HIV. More than four out of five homeless overdose deaths are from opioids.

Even beyond the use of illicit drugs, a reported 73% of the homeless are addicted to nicotine, which is over three times higher than the rate for non-homeless people. Also, because of the large amount of health problems the homeless face, along with the fact that healthcare is not readily available, many turn to illicit drugs as a method of self-medication.


According to the US Department of Justice, “a significant proportion” of the 600,000+ people who are released from incarceration “were homeless when they were incarcerated.” Up to half of the homeless on the streets were previously incarcerated, and let’s not even discuss recidivism rates. (Over three-quarters of people arrested and released get arrested within five years).

It’s not a secret that homelessness and incarceration have a relationship. Studies show incarceration to be 4-6 times more likely for the homeless population.

The Cycle, and Breaking it

Among many programs implemented to combat the cycle of homelessness, addiction, and incarceration, one in Sacramento, CA named the Clean & Sober Program serves as a great example of the effect such programs can have. The initiatives of the Clean & Sober Program are to assist those homeless people “who want to further their education or strengthen their family relationships,” and to provide resident housing from $0 to $275, dependent on the situation. Traditional 12-step recovery programs are also offered.

The cycle is no secret to the white house either. Last year, President Obama took action to assist the incarcerated with rehabilitation and reintegration into society. Among the steps taken were allocating $8.7 million to rehabilitation programs designed to reduce recidivism, allocating up to $8 million in grants for education for the incarcerated, and working to remove the question of past incarceration on job applications.

Steps are indeed being taken in the right direction, but until we either end homelessness or drug addiction, we will likely have both.

The American Opioid Epidemic


Between 2000 and 2014, American rates of death from opioid overdose have tripled from three deaths per 100,000 people to nine per 100,000. That adds up to 28,647 deaths in 2014. While the number of heroin overdoses has made a rapid climb, the majority of the lethal overdoses involve prescription opioids  –  and the heroin crisis is closely tied to prescription drugs, since many users become addicted to a prescription opioid before switching to the street drug. In March 2015, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced an initiative targeting three priority areas to tackle the opioid epidemic and help save lives. These include: improving prescribing practices, expanding access to and the use of medication-assisted treatment, and expanding the use of naloxone.

The abuse of opioids, a group of drugs that  includes heroin and prescription painkillers has had a devastating impact on public health in this country. According to the CDC approximately 100 Americans died from drug overdose every day in 2010. Prescription drugs were involved in well over half of the 38,300 recorded fatal overdoses and opioid pain relievers were involved in 16,600 of those deaths.

Overdose Deaths Involving Opioid Analgesics

Research shows that many non-medical users obtain prescription medications from family and friends.

How Different Misusers of Pain Relievers Get Their Drugs

Today, more Americans die from drug overdoses than car crashes or gun fatalities. In total, drug overdoses killed 47,000 people in the United States in 2014, the latest year for which data is available. That’s 130 deaths per day, on average.


The majority of those deaths – 29,000, or 80 per day – involved an opioid.

Between 1999 and 2014, the overdose epidemic spread from a few concentrated pockets in Appalachia and northern New Mexico to nearly every corner of America. The opioid overdose crisis began early in central Appalachia, a region encompassing much of West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. The largely rural area – dominated by physically taxing industries, including coal mining, agriculture and timbering – was susceptible to the pain-relief promise of prescription opioids such as OxyContin and Vicodin. These painkillers were aggressively marketed throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. As prescriptions proliferated, so did misuse and abuse. In central Appalachia, as in many parts of the country, the prescription painkiller epidemic also fuelled the influx of a cheap, alternative opioid: heroin. As painkiller-related deaths began to fall in the early 2010s following federal and state crackdowns on prescription opioids, heroin-related deaths began to rise.

In the west, New Mexico showed earliest signs of the looming overdose crisis, but Utah was not far behind. The state’s overdose death rate climbed steadily during the early 2000s, driven by growing prescription opioid dependence. But Utah lawmakers took action early. In 2007, they established a two-year public health-based program to combat painkiller misuse. Over the next three years, prescription opioid-related overdose deaths dropped more than 25%, but the success was short lived. After funding ran out in 2010, deaths began to climb again. Drug overdose deaths in Utah continue to be fueled by prescription painkiller misuse, often in combination with other depressant drugs . Though heroin deaths have made a smaller impact in the state, they are also on the rise. Now, six years after the Prescription Pain Medication Program program ended, the Utah house of representatives declared drug overdose deaths to be a public health emergency, and passed a slate of new public health measures, including the legalization of needle-exchange programs.

New England Opioid Overdose RatesNew England is grappling with a more recent scourge. Since 2013, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and other north-eastern states have seen large spikes in overdose deaths attributed to increasing heroin use and the introduction of a new deadly drug: Fentanyl. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 times more potent than heroin, first appeared in the region around 2012, making its way down from Canada. Suppliers often cut the drug into heroin or other substances before selling it to users who may not know exactly what they’re buying. Because of its strength – and users’ unfamiliarity with it – fentanyl has proven particularly deadly.

In the face of these new challenges, Massachusetts and other north-eastern states have begun to expand prevention efforts and access to treatment programs. Naloxone, a drug that can reverse opioid overdoses, has become more widely available throughout the region and local harm-reduction initiatives are being tested.


Meanwhile, Fentanyl has surfaced in several more states, including Ohio and Florida.

Florida, once known as the prescription drug capital of America. began cracking down on “pills mill” clinics in 2010. Soon after, the state’s drug overdose death rate took a downward turn, declining through 2013.But by 2014, deaths were inching back up in Florida too.

Florida did a good job of cracking down on the supply side, but at the same time they actually cut treatment funding. Not addressing the demand side of the problem has contributed to the continuing of the epidemic.

Though postponed for a few years, Florida’s overdose crisis has progressed along a familiar pattern: a wave of prescription opioid abuse followed by heroin and, soon after, fentanyl.

More recently, fentanyl has cropped up in a previously unseen form: fake Xanax pills. The “death pills”, as they have become known, have also been found in California, Indiana and other parts of the mid-west.

Opioid Overdose DeathsIn October 2015, the President issued a Memorandum to Federal Departments and Agencies directing important steps to combat the prescription drug abuse and heroin epidemic. You can find it here.

In March 2016 HHS awarded $94 million to health centers in Affordable Care Act funding to help treat the prescription opioid abuse and heroin epidemic in America. This funding covers 271 health centers in 45 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to improve and expand the delivery of substance abuse services in health centers, with a specific focus on treatment of opioid use disorders in underserved populations.

Administered by the HHS Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), these awards to health centers across the country will increase the number of patients screened for substance use disorders and connected to treatment, increase the number of patients with access to MAT for substance use disorders and opioid treatment, and provide training and educational resources to help health professionals make informed prescribing decisions. This $94 million investment is expected to help awardees hire approximately 800 providers to treat nearly 124,000 new patients.

Research demonstrates that a whole-patient approach to treatment through a combination of medication and counseling and behavioral therapies is most successful in treating opioid use disorders. In 2014, over 1.3 million people received behavioral health services at health centers, This represents a 75 percent increase since 2008 and was made possible with support from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Recovery Act.


Opioid Treatment Options are Available

If you can’t stop taking a drug even if you want to, or if the urge to use drugs is too strong to control, even if you know the drug is causing harm, you might be addicted to opiates. Are you thinking about opioid treatment? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do you think about drugs a lot?
  2. Did you ever try to stop or cut down on your drug usage but couldn’t?
  3. Have you ever thought you couldn’t fit in or have a good time without the use of drugs?
  4. Do you ever use drugs because you are upset or angry at other people?
  5. Have you ever used a drug without knowing what it was or what it would do to you?
  6. Have you ever taken one drug to get over the effects of another?
  7. Have you ever made mistakes at a job or at school because you were using drugs?
  8. Does the thought of running out of drugs really scare you?
  9. Have you ever stolen drugs or stolen to pay for drugs?
  10. Have you ever been arrested or in the hospital because of your drug use?
  11. Have you experienced an opioid overdose?
  12. Has using drugs hurt your relationships with other people?

If the answer to some or all of these questions is yes, you might have an addiction. People from all backgrounds can get an addiction. Asking for help is the first important step. Visiting your doctor for a possible referral to opioid treatment is one way to do it. You can ask if he or she is comfortable discussing drug abuse screening and opioid treatment. If not, ask for a referral to another doctor. You can also contact an addiction specialist about opioid rehab. There are 3,500 board-certified physicians who specialize in addiction and opioid treatment in the United States.

Heroin Addiction Rates are Soaring

Calling heroin addiction in America an epidemic does little justice.  The figures regarding its use, abuse, and overdose rates, both fatal and non-fatal, are bewildering.  Over the last 15 years, heroin addiction rose from being a sincere issue to being an overwhelming tragedy.  Five people died per day in the year 2001 from heroin overdoses, as reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.  In 2014, just thirteen years later, the number of people who died daily from heroin overdoses rose to 29.  Nearly six times the number of people died, just thirteen years later.



The government’s war on drugs pales in comparison to the war being fought between heroin and everyday people.  Studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that heroin abuse rates are rising most rapidly “…in demographic groups with historically low rates of heroin use.”  The CDC also says those in metropolitan areas are most at-risk of becoming addicted to heroin, and that there has also been a significant increase of abuse in non-Hispanic whites, aged 18-25.  So, according to the CDC in a report by US News, those most at risk are people in cities and young white adults.  That seems to be a lot of people, mostly considering that every year the populations of metropolitan areas grow quickly.

Not only have heroin overdose rates sky-rocketed, so have abuse rates and first-time user rates.  According to the same US News report aforementioned, the rate of heroin dependence literally doubled from 2002 to 2013.  Let it be noted that these statistics take time to compile and verify, and so on a rather grim note, one can only imagine what these numbers will be for this year.  Let us only pray that for 2017 and beyond we can end, or at least start to end, this heroin addiction crisis.



Because child studies are handled differently and are more confidential, proven statistics regarding heroin (and other drug) addiction are more readily available for those aged 18 and over.  That being said, our youth are the age-group most affected by heroin abuse in the 2000s.  The CDC reports five times as many deaths from overdoses for those aged 18-25 from the year 2001 to the year 2013.  Evidence proves our youth need the most attention regarding drug abuse, and this starts with education.  If the perils and hardships of drug abuse are taught at a relatively early age, more so than now, compiled evidence suggests drug abuse rates will diminish.

Just because a young person either has not been exposed to or is not interested in the use of heroin does not mean that young person will not try it.  Again according to the CDC, alcoholics are twice as likely to try heroin than non-addicts, marijuana abusers are three times as likely, cocaine abusers are 15 times as likely, and opioid abusers are 40 times as likely.  The idea of a gateway drug should not be forgotten; it is proven.



The American Society of Addiction Medicine compiled a list of facts and figures regarding heroin addiction and overdose.  According to it, drug overdose is the single leading cause of accidental death in the US.  Over 47,000 occurred in 2014.  Nearly half of them were opioid-based, with over 10,000 heroin-related.  At that rate, it’s safe to say that you, the reader, or someone you know is in some way affected by heroin use.  Let’s stop this problem today.

Suicidal Behavior Related to Drug Abuse


The association of alcohol and drugs with suicidal behavior is both causal and contributive. The deep­rooted state of hopelessness is key to the propensity to actual suicides. Alcohol and drugs are significant in providing a feeling of hopelessness by their toxic effects, by possible manipulating of neurotransmitters responsible for the mood and judgement and by disruption of interpersonal relationships and social supports. The identification of alcohol and drug use and dependence is critical to the proper assessment of suicide.Suicidal-Behavior


Substance Abuse Causes Suicidal Behavior

According to studies, over fifty percent of all suicides are associated with alcohol and drug dependence and at least 25% of alcoholics and drug addicts commit suicide. Over 70% of adolescent suicides may be interwoven with drug and alcohol use and dependence. Because alcoholism and drug addiction are leading risk factors for sui
cidal behavior and suicide, any alcoholic or drug addict should be assessed for suicide, especially if actively using alcohol or drugs. Substance abuse can cause social isolation, low self esteem, loss of work or school, estrangement from family and friends ­all events that can build a core of stresses that may lead to suicidal predisposition. Substance abuse also can increase impulsiveness and decrease inhibitions, making one more likely to act on suicidal behavior.


Young People Committing Suicide

Each year more American young people die from suicide than from all other leading natural causes of death combined. In 1997, a sobering 13 percent of deaths among 15 to 24 year olds were the result of suicide. Survey data suggest that between 12 and 25 percent of school age youth consider suicide or make plans to commit suicide. Furthermore, the rate of youth suicide is on an upward path, tripling between 1950 and 1990. Overall, according to a SAMHSA report, suicide attempts involving prescription medications and other drugs jumped by 51% among people 12 and older between 2005 and 2011.

Students were asked how often in the past year they “seriously thought about suicide” or “seriously tried to commit suicide” because of alcohol or drug use. Students were also asked about the number of drinks they consumed in a week, if they were binge drinkers (categorized as five or more drinks in a sitting in the past two weeks), and if they used marijuana or any illegal drugs in the past year. Extensive socioeconomic and demographic information was gathered: gender, age, college class year, grade point average, race, marital status, employment status, campus living arrangement, and parental history of alcohol and drug problems. The Core survey did not measure psychiatric disorders, the most important link between substance abuse and suicidal tendencies. However, the study includes information about students’ smoking, which has been shown to be a correlate of psychiatric disorders and other substance use.teen-suicide-statistics


Results of the Survey

The results show that students who drink or use drugs are much more likely to have suicidal tendencies than those who do not use substances. For example, 8.15 percent of binge drinkers have thought about committing suicide and 2.34 percent report attempting suicide. Similar comparisons hold for students who don’t drink at all, who use marijuana, and who use other illegal drugs. Only 2.34 percent of non-­drinkers have thought about committing suicide with only .78 percent attempting suicide. It is important to note that these results establish a correlation between substance use and suicidal behavior.


Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.

Depression and other mood disorders are the number one risk factor for suicide, but alcohol and drug abuse – even without depression – are a close second. In fact, research has shown that the strongest predictor of suicide is alcoholism, not a psychiatric diagnosis. People with substance use disorders are about six times more likely to commit suicide than the general population.

Substance abuse not only increases the likelihood that a person will take their own life, but it is also used as a means for committing suicide. Roughly one in three people who die from suicide are under the influence of drugs, typically opiates such as oxycodone or heroin, or alcohol.

Poisoning is the third­ leading method used in suicide deaths, and drugs make up 75 percent of suicide deaths due to poisoning.


Why is suicide the tragic fate of so many people struggling with addiction?

There are a few possible explanations. Under the influence of drugs or alcohol, people may lose inhibitions and take risks they ordinarily would not. Additionally, many people abuse drugs or alcohol in an attempt to relieve the symptoms of depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions. The rate of major depression is two to four times higher among addicts than the general population. Although the suicide rate among patients with untreated substance use disorders is reportedly as high as 45 percent, only 11 percent of addicts get treatment. Stigma plays a role in keeping people from getting help, and lack of training in suicide prevention contributes to the problem once people do seek treatment. Primary care physicians are positioned to help identify and prevent suicidal behavior, but only if they know what to look for and how to create an effective suicide prevention plan.

Research shows that certain populations that commit suicide, including older adults and women, are likely to have seen a primary care provider in the year before their death. Thus, improving our ability to recognize and treat the factors that lead to suicide can go a long way in helping to prevent it.

Addicts are at high risk of death by a number of causes including disease, accident and suicide. Suicide prevention requires a multifaceted approach, but it all hinges on the person reaching out for help and effective treatment being available when they take that brave step.

Taking the Steps to Overcome Heroin Addiction

Heroin is a growing epidemic in the United States. Each day thousands of men and women fall victim to heroin addiction, many losing their lives early on in their battle. If you are addicted to heroin and ready to get clean, know you are not alone. With thousands of treatment centers across the nation you can get the help you need to overcome heroin addiction.


Admit You Have a Problem

It’s easy to make excuses to why you can’t stop using heroin. We know it’s hard to quit, but you have taken the first step in getting clean by admitting you have a problem and that is never easy. Now that you have admitted you have a problem it is important to immediately seek the help you will need to get clean.


Starting Treatment

Whether you found a treatment center by word of mouth, a google search or your Doctor’s recommendation, it is great that you took the step to find the help you need to get clean. Starting treatment can be scary, you don’t know what to expect and withdrawal symptoms are starting to kick in. With a brief intake assessment, Doctors and staff will have a full understanding of your addiction and will put together an individualized treatment plan to help you move forward in overcoming your addiction to heroin.



Withdrawal is horrible, that is saying the least. You will experience withdrawal symptoms that vary in severity, some making you feel as if you are going to die. This is why detoxification is so important. During this time you will be monitored by nursing staff that will help to ensure your health, safety and comfort. Doctors will prescribe medications to ease symptoms of withdrawal and help you to stabilize, allowing you to move forward in your treatment.



addiction-recoveryThe rehabilitation process is vital in helping you to overcome heroin addiction. You will go through therapy, individual counseling and group counseling sessions to help you get to the root cause of your addiction and work through it, while educating you on your addiction and helping you to develop the tools needed to overcome heroin addiction and maintain your sobriety in your day to day life.

Tomorrow is a new day, do not let your past get in the way of your future. Start taking the steps needed to overcome heroin addiction today.

Understanding Your Addiction

Millions of men and women throughout the nation are suffering from addiction. It does not discriminate, affecting people of all walks of life. Many hide their addiction in the shadows, they lack an understanding of addiction and have great shame for the disease that plagues their body.


Coming To Grips With Your Addiction

coping-with-your-addictionIf you have found yourself craving drugs or alcohol, unable to focus on life without its use in it, putting its use before what should be important, then you may be an addict. This is not something you need to be ashamed of, but it is something you need to understand and get control of. You have a disease, it has changed the way in which your brain functions and you have to develop the tools needed to function once again without drugs or alcohol.


Where to Start

If you have recognized that you have a problem and are ready to ask for help the best place to start is by turning to a drug or alcohol rehabilitation center. There you will find the supportive care you need with experienced chemical dependency professionals that are focused on helping people, like you, overcome addiction and move forward to live a more fulfilling life in recovery.


Steps in Treatment

individual-addiction-counselingWhen first entering into a drug and alcohol treatment facility you may be afraid, you do not know what to expect. You do not need to fear your future of good health and sobriety. On intake you will be assessed to determine the severity of your addiction and put together and individualized treatment plan. This treatment plan may include but is not limited to the following:

  • Detoxification
  • Behavioral and cognitive therapy
  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Family counseling
  • Chemical dependency education
  • Alternative therapies
  • Holistic therapies
  • Pharmaceutical therapies

Take the First Step Today

Do not hide in the shadows of your addiction any longer. You are sick, you are suffering from a disease. And you need treatment, just like you would need for any other life threatening disease. Make the call today, reach out, there are people who care. Take the first step in your recovery today.


Overcoming Heroin Addiction

Heroin addiction is a growing problem throughout the United States. It does not discriminate on who it consumes, affecting men and women of all walks of life. This highly addictive drug is ripping families apart, taking a once happy person and turning them into a drug seeking zombie that only cares about getting their next fix. With no end in sight, the only thing that can be done is educate the public on the dangers of heroin, speak to our children, and offer our support to those who have fallen victim to heroin addiction.


Getting Out of the Hole of Addiction

When addicted to heroin is can feel like there is no way out. Stopping heroin results in horrible pain as the body withdrawals, only sending you back to the drug for comfort. If you manage to get past the first 72 hours in withdrawal, if you don’t have the right mindset you can easily fall victim to temptation again. To get out of the hole of addiction you do not only need to admit that you have a problem but to seek treatment to help give you a true foundation to start in your recovery.


Turning to Chemical Dependency Treatment Professionals

Sure it is possible to quit cold turkey, but the likelyhood of this being an effective way to kick your heroin addiction is slim. Turning to chemical dependency treatment professionals to undergo detoxification, rehabilitation and aftercare will give you the medical treatment, educational tools and support needed to overcome your addiction to heroin.


Starting The Treatment Process

You can overcome your heroin addiction with the help of chemical dependency treatment professionals. First you will go through an intake assessment, this will help staff to determine the severity of your addiction and start putting together an individualized treatment plan.


Next you will move onto the detox process where you will begin to cleanse the body of the harmful chemicals and toxins related to heroin abuse. During this time you will be monitored to ensure your health and safety, the doctor will prescribe you medications to ease symptoms of withdrawal.


After the physical symptoms of withdrawal have been controlled you will move forward to begin the rehabilitation process. There you will go through various therapy and individual counseling sessions, as well as daily group therapies to help you get a true understanding of your addiction and develop the skills needed to maintain your sobriety in your day to day life.


When your Therapist and other clinical staff feel you are ready to return home you will work together with them to create an aftercare plan. This will include an outpatient therapy program, NA meetings, a doctor to monitor your medications and to create a support system for when you return home. All of this will help to keep you on the road of recovery, helping you to overcome heroin addiction and move forward to create a more fulfilling and healthy life for yourself and your family.


Want to Learn more about Heroin Addiction?

Resources and Organizations

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  4. American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry

Overcoming Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine is known to be one of the hardest illicit street drugs to kick. It causes a psychological dependency that can cause cravings years into recovery. It is not uncommon of cocaine addicts to relapse several years into their recovery. To overcome a cocaine addiction it take treatment, support and constant maintenance.  

Understanding Cocaine Addiction

Cocaine addiction is the psychological desire to use cocaine despite the knowledge of its damaging effects on your health and overall well being. Cocaine creates a sense of euphoria and a high level of energy.

When taken in large, unsafe doses, Cocaine can cause mood swings, paranoia, insomnia, psychosis, high blood pressure, tachycardia, panic attacks, cognitive impairments and drastic changes in personality. Cocaine overdose may result in cardiovascular and brain damage, and even death.

Abruptly stopping the use of cocaine can result in withdrawal symptoms that range from moderate to severe: dysphoria, depression, anxiety, psychological and physical weakness, pain and compulsive craving.

Treating Cocaine Addiction

Treating cocaine addiction typically requires cognitive therapy and motivational therapy. Both therapies will allow you to address the psychological dependency and to get a full understanding of your addiction, recognize triggers and developing the key tools needed to maintain your sobriety. There is no known medication used to treat cocaine addiction, however there are many medications used to help control symptoms of withdrawal.

Get The Help You Need

If you are ready to take back control of your life and overcome addiction to cocaine there is help out there. With thousands of rehabilitation facilities throughout the United States you will be able to find one to fit your needs and offer you the tools needed to successfully overcome your cocaine addiction.