It’s not just a problem in poor or urban areas. At NCADA, we began to notice an increase of calls coming into our helpline specifically referencing heroin around 2007. In 2010 the number of these type of counseling calls increased dramatically, and they were coming from all over the St. Louis area. With the help of local health departments and coroner’s offices we then began to track the overdose deaths for the area, and we saw the rate of opiate-related deaths increase around 300%. We noticed a similar increase in the amount of people entering treatment facilities for opiate-related addictions. This scourge has since spread across the entire country, and we need the help of elected officials, schools, health professionals, business leaders, and you to end this epidemic.
We have seen more people die from opiates in the St. Louis area in the past few years than another well-documented public health problem, violent crime. See below for the total number of people we’ve lost in the St. Louis area since 2007.
This chart shows how prescription painkiller abuse is the cause of more deaths each year than heroin. It also shows the dramatic increase in heroin deaths in the past few years.
It is extremely important to note that almost ALL of the young people who use heroin used prescription painkillers first! Prescription painkillers serve as the most common gateway to heroin for many young people whether they were originally prescribed these drugs or they bought or stole them from others. Research from SAMHSA discovered that 4 out of 5 heroin users began their path to heroin by abusing prescription painkillers.
You may be familiar with names such as oxycontin, oxycodone and vicodin. These prescription painkillers, also known as synthetic opiates or opiod analgesics, are a class of painkillers designed to address short and long-term pain. Generally, they are considered safe when prescribed, used as prescribed, and when use is closely monitored by a doctor. However, these drugs have a potential for abuse and have become increasingly popular as a means of achieving a high.
Due to an adolescent’s developing brain and its susceptibility to become addicted to various drugs that can be prescribed, it is likely that any teen who has one of these painkillers prescribed to them should be very closely monitored by a doctor and parent/guardian.
Prescription painkillers and heroin, aka opiates, are considered to be one of the most highly addictive substances ever created. It causes immediate changes in the brain, which can lead to the brain disease of addiction. Opiates also affect the part of the brain responsible for breathing, and it may cause a person to stop breathing completely and die. It also causes people to become very tired and fall asleep, aka “nodding off”. Many times this leads to people choking on their own vomit when they fall asleep after use.
It’s hard when friends ask you to do something you aren’t comfortable with. You may be tempted to give in so you’ll fit in or just to get them to stop bugging you about it. Don’t give in, especially on something that is so dangerous.
If you find you’re having to frequently say no, you should think about why these situations keep coming up and ways to avoid them. Many times people need to stop hanging out with people who are doing things that may damage their future.
Here are some plans you can use to help you say no when you feel pressured:
(From the Hip Code 411 Series, Centene Corporation and NCADA, 2016)
Prices will vary but $5-10 per ‘button’ or capsule of heroin is the most common price. While that may not sound very expensive, you need to keep in mind that as you continue taking heroin, both the amount you need and how often you use it increase. It is not unusual for people addicted to heroin to use 15-20 capsules of heroin per day. Multiply that by 7 days a week, month after month, and you can easily spend tens of thousands of dollars a year because of this addiction. Plus there are the costs of losing your job, friends, interests, and life.
Don’t stay silent! Actively communicate your concerns and desires for them to get help, even if you feel certain they are going to reject your attempts to get them to address their problem. This addiction that can kill them at any given time. Overdoses happen when someone least expects it; staying silent is similar to standing by and watching someone drown without throwing them something to hold onto. Very often the process of recovery from addiction begins with a family member or concerned friend having the willingness to speak up and communicate their concerns.
Solutions to addictions usually come through the hard work of employing tough love. This can mean demonstrating a willingness to get between the individual and their addiction, or taking a stand on what it is the person needs to do to end their addiction and get well. This is much easier said than done, but there are millions of people in recovery today because someone close to them was willing to speak up and act.
If you think it might be helpful to speak to a counselor prior to sitting down and talking with someone you care about, then please call us at 314.962.3456 if you’re in the St. Louis area or click here if you’re outside of the St. Louis area. A short conversation with a counselor may help you feel more comfortable before you take this on.
Seek help! Treatment can be very effective for heroin and any other addictions, but it requires the individual to fully dedicate themselves. Addiction is a progressive disease. As is the case with most other illnesses, the more advanced it becomes the more difficult it is to treat and recover from. Therefore, the sooner someone reaches out for help the better their chances for a successful outcome. Treatment can be difficult to access and sometimes takes time and a good deal of effort to find, but if someone doesn’t give up, they can and do recover from their addiction. People who successfully complete treatment will tell you it was difficult but the rewards of recovery are never-ending.
In the St. Louis area, NCADA – St. Louis is available to answer your questions. You can either email anonymously on our Ask A Counselor site or you can call our helpline at 314.962.3456 and ask to speak to a counselor. We will answer your questions and help in whatever way we can. NCADA counselors are available to take your call 9:00 – 5:00 p.m. Mon-Fri. There is no charge for this service.
If you’re outside of the St. Louis area click here to find help near you.