Opiates are highly addictive and over the past few decades, this country has seen an alarming increase in the abuse of prescription opiates like Oxycontin. Unfortunately, an addiction to these drugs can’t last—they are very expensive and increasingly difficult to get a hold of. As is true across the country, Michigan is thusly seeing an increase in heroin use when pill addicts need something stronger, cheaper, and easier to find.
According to the Detroit Free Press, local treatment providers and hospitals are seeing this alarming trend first-hand.
“Our 18- to 25-year population has exploded,” said Scott Masi, an outreach specialist. “The prescription medication problem is pushing this heroin problem. Anybody who tells you anything different doesn’t know what they’re talking about. I could poll every kid who comes in our clinic, and it’s a broken record. It’s the Vicodin and OxyContin, and then it goes to the heroin.”
Local Poison Control calls have doubled. There were 27 heroin related calls last month, compared with 15 in May 2012. Officials have called on local doctors to help track opiate overdoses in an effort to get a grasp on the true scope of the problem.
One particular type of heroin, being called “black shadow” is believed to be particularly deadly and may be mixing heroin with acetyl fentanyl, an opiate derivative. The CDC says acetyl fentanyl is to blame for deaths across the country including nearly 12 in Rhode Island this spring.
Addiction is a serious matter, and telling addicts to quit just isn’t an effective way to combat overdose deaths. Instead, experts say, addicts who shoot up need to have an emergency plan. This could include telling someone close to you when you are going to try a new batch or go on a bender. When addiction is kept quiet, it is particularly fatal.
Many of the teens and young adults who are now addicted to heroin don’t come from the segment of society typically associated with syringe drug use. These aren’t homeless teens, they come from middle and upper-class families, are star athletes and popular kids. Heroin “has no boundaries” said Pittsfield Township Fire Chief Sean Gleason.
Sometimes the best thing that can happen to an addict is an arrest. At least then, options for treatment may be made available.