Thursday, August 15, 2013

The new face of heroin: Number of affluent teenagers from the suburbs using the drug is shooting up in alarming numbers


  • Mail Online
  • ~Heroin use has increased alarmingly over the last five years
  • ~A large share of new heroin users are aged between 18 and 25 and live in the suburbs
  • ~Actor Cory Monteith's recent death has highlighted the problem
  • ~Experts say the rise in painkiller addiction is directly linked to the growing heroin problem

  • Heroin abuse in the U.S. has skyrocketed in the last five years, and a large share of new users are 18- to 25-year-olds living in suburban or rural environments.

    The death of clean-cut Glee star Cory Monteith in July of a heroin overdose shocked fans and shone a spotlight on the new generation of addicts.

    Often thought of as the habit of inner-city junkies that faded after its mid-nineties heyday, heroin use is experiencing a terrifying resurgence. 

    The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), documented an alarming 80 percent increase in first use of heroin among 12- to 17-year-olds since 2002.

    Over the past five years, seizures of heroin in the United States by the Drug Enforcement Administration have gone up more than 50 per cent, from 1,334 lbs in 2008 to 2,059 lbs in 2012.

    Heroin use in the U.S. rose an alarming 75 per cent between 2007 and 2011, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

    And with heroin use comes heroin overdose.
    Caroline Kacena of Naperville, Illinois, lost her son, John, to a heroin overdose on July 23 2012. He was 20 years old.
    'He told me he was doing heroin for four months before he knew it was heroin,' his mother Caroline Kacena told CBS.
    Suburban teen: John Kacena grew up playing hockey and baseball and was a Boy Scout, before he turned to heroin

    'We were the quintessential American family - baseball, hockey, Boy Scouts,' she said. 
    'I worked at the local school, so it allowed me to be at home with my kids. I had my summers off. So I did everything right. I did everything I was supposed to.'

    Heroin most often kills by causing respiratory failure. An overdoes causes the breathing to slow, and eventually stop entirely. 

    Public health experts link the surge in heroin abuse to the over-prescription of highly addictive pain medications such as Vicodin and Oxycontin, which act as gateway drugs.
    A recent survey by shows one in four high school students have abused prescription pain medications like Vicodin and Oxycontin, up 33 per cent in just five years.
    The widespread abuse of ­prescription painkillers has been on the radar of public health officials and law enforcement officials for years. 

    In 2009, 257 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers - derived from the opium poppy, like heroin - were dispensed nationwide, almost one per person, according to a 2011 White House report

    According to the Center for Disease Control, there has been at least a 10-fold increase in the medical use of opioid painkillers during the last 20 years because of a movement toward more aggressive management of pain.
    The euphoric effect associated with opioids has led to misuse and abuse of the widely available drugs.

    In 2007, the number of deaths involving opioid analgesics was 1.93 times the number involving cocaine and 5.38 times the number involving heroin.

    Cory Monteith’s battle with drug addiction began, like so many heroin addicts, in his teen years.  Monteith underwent rehabilitation for heroin addiction as a 19-year-old, south treatment again in April of this year.

    Susan Foster, vice president of CASAColumbia, a substance-abuse research center at Columbia University in New York told the Christian Science Monitor that 95 per cent of addictions start with substance abuse in the teen years.
    In 2010 Purdue Pharma brought a new, more difficult to abuse form of Oxycontin onto the market. The pill could no longer be crushed for snorting or dissolved for injecting, and took longer to act.

    The demand for prescription painkillers meant that their street value went way up, to up to $80 a tablet, according to law enforcement agency data.

    On the other hand, heroin costs just $10 a bag. 
    In a study published in 2012 by the New England Journal of Medicine, 66 per cent of Oxycontin addicts moved on to heroin after the reformulation of the drug.

    John Kacena and his friends grew up close, playing baseball, hockey and joining the scouts together. They began using heroin together in their freshman year of high school.
    At the time of his death, Kacena had been clean for a few weeks and had spoken about going to college. 
    'I woke up in the morning,' Kacena told CBS of the July day John Kacena died.

    'I opened up his door. And I found my son sitting up in his bed, cross-legged, but slumped completely over. I could tell the moment I opened up the door by the position that he was in that he was already gone.'

    Caroline Kacena has been lobbying for changes that could help save someone else's son or daughter.
    Kacena wants a nationwide 'Good Samaritan law' that would mean anyone with a person who's overdosing could call 911 without fear of arrest.

    Another change Kacena is calling for is to make Naloxone, a drug that can neutralize the effect of heroin and avert an overdose, available over-the-counter.

    Public health officials hope the reigning-in of prescription drugs will prevent future addiction and consequent shift to heroin use.

    In the meantime, a new generation of heroin addicts has emerged, and only time will tell what their futures hold.

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