Heroin addiction has reached epidemic proportions. Its widespread availability and increased use has created a major global health crisis. A report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) states that heroin use in the U.S. has been steadily increasing since the last decade. Despite the stringent laws to curb heroin trafficking, it still manages to find its way into the streets and into the lives of millions. The prevalence of the dark web has made it easier for users to purchase heroin online. With an average cost of about $15 a dose, it’s surprising how a relatively cheap drug can turn into a costly addiction. The easy access to heroin means more users and more harmful consequences both to individuals and to society.
Heroin is made from certain species of the opium poppy plant. Opium is first extracted from the pod of the poppy flower before it is refined into morphine, and then further processed to make different forms of heroin. It is one of the most addictive opiate drugs. Heroin can be snorted, smoked, ingested or injected. However, heroin is mostly injected, creating additional risks of infection for the user. A cheap dose of heroin can quickly escalate into a costly addiction.
The Vicious Circle
Making heroin from the poppy seed pod has been perfected over the years. Laboratories are producing much purer heroin than ever before. However, on the streets, dealers often add impurities such as milk powder, baking soda and caffeine to bulk up the product and increase their margins. This reduces the purity of heroin by up to 40 percent.
Selling less pure heroin gives dealers an additional advantage. Owing to the low heroin content and build-up of tolerance to the drug, addicts and long-term users need more of the adulterated heroin to experience the high they had experienced before. Chasing the same high forces them to buy more.
A hardcore heroin addict may spend up to $200 a day to support their habit. The result is a very expensive habit not to mention the constant threat of an overdose. And it is incredibly difficult for them to beat their heroin addiction on their own.
The Costs of Heroin Addiction
While the street price of heroin may seem cheap, the hidden costs can include lower income levels, physical, emotional and relational costs as well as higher medical and legal expenses.
Most heroin users have lower total revenues either due to neglecting their job responsibilities or losing their jobs. A poor job performance and incarceration can significantly lower one’s earnings.
Legal costs of heroin use may include federal and state fines or even imprisonment. As a using parent, being charged with child abandonment or neglect may also culminate in significant legal costs.
Medical Care Expenses
Various physical consequences that require important medical treatment and attention may result from heroin use. From emergency room visits to addiction treatment costs, an addict may end up spending a great fortune as a result of their addiction.
The presence of heroin in our towns and cities also leads to a great cost to society. According to a study released by the University of Illinois, The U.S. Government spends more than 51 billion dollars each year on heroin. A large proportion of the costs is due to unemployment, mortality and incarceration. The next large set of societal costs results from medical conditions and complications such as AIDS and Hepatitis that result from heroin use. Medical care costs and heroin-related crime costs also add to the overall cost to society.
Physical and Emotional Costs
One of the highest costs of heroin addiction is its ability to destroy and even take an addict’s life.
Physical harm: Heroin causes almost instant brain damage and long-term bodily harm
Medical complications: Heroin use increases a user’s vulnerability to various diseases such as AIDS, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Tuberculosis. It is also not uncommon for pregnant mothers who use heroin to develop pregnancy complications.
Withdrawal: Detoxification may induce quite horrendous and painful withdrawal symptoms. Symptoms range from depression and muscle spasms to intense sweating and seizures. Withdrawal symptoms for long-term addicts can be life threatening.
Death: Overdosing on heroin can kill you.
Heroin use affects more than just the user. The user is likely to damage or even break relationships with loved ones. Parents who use heroin run the risk of losing custody of their children for legal reasons such as abandonment or neglect.
More often than not, it is the family of a user that seeks treatment for the addict. There are various treatment options, but the highly addictive nature of heroin makes an inpatient program the most effective option.
Benefits of an Inpatient Program
An intensive outpatient heroin treatment program will help the addict with therapy, knowledge, counseling and tools to live a drug-free life. Medical professionals can provide much-needed medication assisted treatment to address detoxifications, withdrawal symptoms and cravings. An inpatient program provides an addict with round the clock support and the opportunity to fully apply themselves in the recovery process with fewer distractions. Addicts work with qualified medical personnel to uncover the underlying reasons for their drug use and find new ways to cope with them in the future. Counseling helps with the psychological effects of heroin addiction which are more than just the cravings and contentment of taking the drug.
Most residential treatment programs are highly structured and focus on changing patient attitudes and behaviors. Clients receive both individual and group therapy, providing a robust support mechanism that extends into the addict’s long-term recovery plan. The end goal of any treatment program is to help an addict achieve full recovery. Long term abstinence is one of the most challenging parts of addiction recovery, and it’s crucial to note that a relapse may occur.
Addiction treatment is just a single step in the recovery process. Every recovering addict must understand the importance of putting the skills learned during heroin addiction treatment to use. A long-term treatment plan is crucial to achieving a full recovery and freedom from heroin.