Posts Tagged heroin abuse

Recreational Use of Painkillers May Lead to Heroin Abuse Later in Life

A new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) finds that people who use prescription pain relievers for nonmedical reason are at greater risk of heroin abuse.

prescription drug abuseThe Associations of Nonmedical Pain Reliever Use and Initiation of Heroin Use in the United States, which covered the period of 2002 to 2011, revealed that 12 to 49-year olds who had used pain relievers without a doctor’s prescription were 19 times more likely to have used heroin within the past 12 months of being interviewed for the report. It also indicated that 79.5 percent of heroin users had formerly engaged in nonmedical use of pain relievers.

“Prescription pain relievers when used properly for their intended purpose can be of enormous benefit to patients, but their nonmedical use can lead to addiction, serious physical harm and even death,” Dr. Peter Delany, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, said in a news release. “This report shows that it can also greatly increase an individual’s risk of turning to heroin use – thus adding a new dimension of potential harm.”

Even though the report said that only 3.6 percent of those who used pain relievers without prescription went on to use heroin within five years, the findings shouldn’t be regarded very lightly given the increasing number of people, especially teens, who turn to prescription drugs to get high.

From 2007 to 2011, the number of people who reported use of heroin in the past 12 months increased from 373,000 to 620,000. Heroin dependents in the past 12 months likewise rose from 179,000 in 2007 to 369,000 in 2011. The number of people starting to use heroin the first time in the past 12 months also increased from 106,000 people to 178,000 people during the same period.

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What You Must Know About the New Breed of Heroin Users

The death of Glee star Cory Monteith a few weeks ago in Canada brought a huge shock to many Hollywood spectators. He was young, fresh-faced, and looked perfectly healthy. For his throngs of supporters, he was a typical young man enjoying the good life. But for those familiar with the changing trends in drug abuse, he personifies the new breed of heroin users.

heroinDr. Richard Clark, an emergency room physician and director of toxicology at the University of California San Diego Medical Center, told NBC News that gone are the days when you can easily spot stereotype heroin users on the street.  Today nearly anyone you least expect are using heroin because the drug is cheap and available in abundance. Kids, teenagers, even white-collar workers — often living in suburban or rural areas — could be using it without you suspecting.

Caleb Banta-Green, a research scientist at the University of Washington School of Public Health who frequently writes about heroin use said Monteith “is what a heroin user looks like.”

31-year old Monteith had been very open about his struggles with substance abuse, saying he started at a very young age. Despite publicly admitting his addition problems many were still incredulous when he was found dead on July 13 at Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel in Vancouver. Initial reports indicated that he was last seen partying at a club with some friends before the incident occurred. A few days later following his demise, the British Columbia Coroners Service released its report which said that the clean-cut actor died of a mixed drug toxicity, involving heroin and alcohol.

“If you’re out partying at a bar, you’re most likely not doing heroin in the middle of patrons drinking socially,” Dr. Clark explained. “But you may be real mellow from the alcohol, go back to your hotel room and say, ‘Boy, it would be good to get high with heroin.’”

Dr. Clark said alcohol and heroin have different effects on the central nervous system. And when they act together, most of the danger could come from heroin. He also noted that nearly all deaths associated with heroin were because the users simply stopped breathing.

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Heroin Withdrawal: Symptoms and Treatment

Heroin is a strong analgesic painkiller used to relieve acute to severe pain conditions such as those caused by severe physical trauma or injury, post surgical pain, myocardial infarction (commonly known as heart attack), and cancer pains. However, the drug’s medical use has been quickly overshadowed by instances of abuse, misuse, and addiction by people aged 15 to 65, in the US as well as in other countries.

While heroin use induces a state of relaxation and euphoria, sudden stop in taking the drug could bring pains and discomfort. Common withdrawal symptoms include:

  • Craving for the drug
  • Restlessness
  • Body achesheroin abuse
  • Cold sweats and chills
  • Constipation
  • Cramps in the body
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Yawning
  • Fever
  • Insomnia
  • Muscle pains
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Increased irritability
  • Tears and runny nose

According to the, one of the reasons that make heroin withdrawal so painful is because the drug is considered one of the strongest opiates that ever existed. Sadly, it also has one of the highest dependency rate in the world. In 2009, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that more than 600,000 million Americans age 12 and older had abused heroin at least once in the year prior to being surveyed.

A number of treatment options are available for heroin abusers to help them deal with withdrawal symptoms. These treatments include counseling, group therapy, medication (pharmacotherapy), and supervised home withdrawal.

With home remedies, it is important to proactively of withdrawal symptoms to successfully wean off heroin. For easing aches and pains, warm showers or bath, massages, and application of heating pads are helpful. Psychological symptoms could be addressed by encouraging the heroin user to practice medication or perform exercise, as well as discover new hobbies to divert their attention from the drug.

Pharmacotherapy-based treatments may often involve taking Methadone which helps reduce the impact of heroin on the drug dependent individual. Other medications used are Buprenorphine and Naltrexone.

Treatment options are most effective when they are tailored according to the person’s specific situation. In some cases, drug specialists or rehab doctors may use a combination of methods to eliminate specific symptoms.

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Reformulation of OxyContin Causing Drug Users to Shift to Heroin

heroin-abuseWhen Purdue Pharma changed the formula of OxyContin in 2010, it may have been successful in making the drug less attractive to users. However, what it did not probably expected is that the reformulation of the drug will drive OxyContin users to turn their attention to heroin and other stronger opioids.

According to a new research that surveyed more than 2,500 patients from 150 treatment centers across the United States, a significant percentage of OxyContin users are instead shifting to harder drugs, including heroin. The survey result shows that the number of people abusing OxyContin has dropped from 35.6% (before the new formula) to 12.8% (after the reformulation).

“The use of OxyContin has dropped precipitously, but none of us anticipated that people who were addicted to oxycodone would leave it and select another drug to take its place,” said principal investigator Dr. Theodore Cicero, who is also a professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri.

Cicero further explains that heroin is  “easily available and cheap,” thereby, making it a logical choice for OxyContin users.

However, what needs to be addressed according to Cicero is the alarming increase in heroin use and other opioid abuse. He notes that “People are going from an essentially safe medication with known, specified doses to a powder that their dealer is telling them is heroin.”

Although there is no exact figures yet as to how many people are switching from OxyContin to heroine, Cicero said that the preliminary study should prompt government units to develop programs and additional research aimed at preventing substance abuse in general.

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Majority of Male Arrestees Test Positive for Drugs

In a new study funded by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, about 68% of male arrestees in the Hennepin County jail tested positive for illegal drug use. The results were gathered when random testing was done early this year on adult men booked into the said prison facility.

drug abuseAmong the types of drugs detected, marijuana topped the list with 55% of those arrested testing positive for pot use. Cocaine also figured with 16% confirmed users, opiates with 6%, methamphetamines with 4%, and oxycodone with 1.5% users from among the sample population.

For Minnesota Department of Human Services drug abuse strategy officer Carol Falkowski, the results yielded were what she anticipated. “Being addicted to illegal drugs is expensive and so you often see this connection between crime and criminal behavior and drug addiction because people have to acquire money to get their drugs,” she said.

Hennepin County forms part of the ten sites in the whole country participating in a federal initiative that records drug use among male arrestees. Compared to last year’s results, a slight drop in overall drug use was noted at 2.4% this year. As for the remaining nine sites participating in the study, results have yet to be obtained.

Another trend on the rise in the state’s drug problems is that of heroin and illegal painkillers abuse. While there may be a decrease in methamphetamine and cocaine use from 2007 to 2010, patients affected with painkillers and heroin addictions who seek treatment are constantly on the rise.

According to Falkowski, their community was able to address the problem of meth use at the appropriate time but the same community is reluctant to deal with heroin issues. “There’s the stigma that heroin is a very hardcore drug and many communities under any circumstance are reluctant to admit that they have that in their community,” she said.

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More Young People Turning to Heroin

The preferences of young people nowadays, in terms of recreational drugs, are said to be changing. From marijuana, alcohol, and acid, more young people seem to be turning to powerful prescription painkillers and heroin.

More local drug overdose deaths could be attributed to heroin, as opposed to other drugs.

heroinMany of the victims of drug overdose are young people, some as young as 17. Coroner’s files reveal that between 2006 and 2010, about a third of drug overdose victims in the counties of Madison and St. Clair were aged 35 or younger; most of these deaths could be attributed to opioids, which include heroin and such prescription painkillers as oxycodone, morphine, methadone, and hydrocodone.

The shift to heroin and prescription painkillers was confirmed by Amy Warren, clinical supervisor at Gateway Foundation Alcohol and Drug Treatment in Belleville, who shared : “There is just a tremendous increase in heroin use and opiate use overall.”

Brian Muller, another recovering addict, described painkillers as similar to heroin, with the exception that “(Heroin) was the same high times 10. It was so much better.”

Harry Sommers, the special agent in charge of the St. Louis Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration, revealed that Mexican drug gangs have been marketing a purer form of heroin since 2008, a fact that may have contributed to its rising popularity, even among the youth.

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