Heroin addiction is risky business

You may want to try it just once “for the experience.” You know it’s a bad idea, but how much can it hurt to try it just once? These are famous words because nobody starts out wanting to be addicted. It happens unexpectedly to the user, although researchers say addiction is predictable.

Heroin use is a problem here in our state and in our county. When pharmaceutical companies changed the formula for painkillers like OxyContin to discourage abuse, drug users turned to heroin. It’s cheaper and easier to get. And you put your life in a drug dealer’s hands when you risk using the stuff.

On the black market Oxycontin is about $60-$100 per pill. Heroin is about $45-$60 for a multiple dose supply, advises Join Together Online. JTO also says the problem is growing right into suburbia. Most heroin addicts begin with painkillers. In some areas of Ohio, like Cleveland, use is at epidemic levels.

In Dayton area, it has been reported that heroin deaths doubled in 2012. Children as young as 13 reportedly are using heroin. With increased abuse there is an increase in crime, and overdoses. When you use heroin you don’t know what you’re going to get. It can be cut with anything.

All types of heroin are available in Ohio, advises the National Drug Intelligence Center. It comes in from Chicago, Detroit, New York City and along the southwest border: Mexican black tar and brown-powdered in northern Ohio and Southeast Asian, Southwest Asian and South American in southern Ohio. The substance is increasingly available. The higher the purity of the drug, the more dangerous it is.

On April 13, near Elyria, two Pennsylvania women were stopped for a traffic violation on the Ohio Turnpike. When just cause was given, Ohio Highway Patrol troopers found 390 grams of heroin worth about $58,000 in the women’s possession. If convicted, they could serve 10 years jail time and a $20,000 fine.

The 2011 National Drug Threat Assessment reports, “New users frequently overdose because they are unfamiliar with their tolerance levels; users resuming heroin use after prolonged absences often restart at their prior dosage level, even though their tolerance may have declined in the interim.”

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) explains how heroin affects the brain.

“Heroin is an opioid drug synthesized with morphine, a naturally-occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of the Asian opium poppy plant.” Heroin changes the brain, affecting parts of the brain that control life support: blood pressure, arousal and respiration. It suppresses breathing. Regular heroin use changes the brain’s functions. Tolerance to it means using more of the substance to achieve the same intensity of the high, which is euphoric and hard to resist. Dependence on the drug means you need it to prevent painful withdrawal symptoms. There also is a high level of risk of chronic relapse. It’s hard to kick.

Use of heroin is associated with contracting infectious diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C. It also is associated with collapsed veins, liver and kidney disease and various kinds of pneumonia, among others. Toxic additives can clog the blood vessels to lungs, liver, kidneys or brain, leaving permanent damage.

“Drug addiction is a brain disease,” writes Alan I. Leshner, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIH. Nobody intends for it to happen, but it is predictable. Choices are made, consequences must be dealt with and requires dedication on the part of the person in recovery.

Family Recovery Center promotes the wellbeing of individuals, families and communities with education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related mental health issues. For more information, contact us at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468 or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org.