Heroin Is Abundant And Deadly: Chances Are You Know A Heroin Addict

Glee cast
Glee cast (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Heroin in the news…

Given that on July 13, 2013, Cory Monteith was found deceased in his hotel room and the coroner later confirmed that Mr. Monteith died of a mixed drug toxicity involving alcohol and heroin many people are trying to understand how and why this happened. For sure fans of the hit television show GLEE who have followed Monteith’s character, Finn, are shocked and saddened.

Now that a few days have passed the news media is beginning to take a closer look at heroin addiction. For example, the Christian Science Monitor offered this headline: Cory Monteith overdose spotlights surge in heroin addiction and death.  The article points out that: “A large share of the emerging new heroin users are 18-to-25-year-olds, many of whom are white and middle class.” The BBC‘s headline: The heroin users who don’t fit the “junkie” stereotype where they offered: “But what appeared especially shocking to fans and onlookers was the contrast between Monteith’s seemingly healthy appearance and the usual depiction of a heroin user – destitute, bedraggled and wizened.”

Heroin is abundant and deadly…

In preparing today’s post we spent some time reviewing headlines about heroin and how residents in towns across the United States are trying to come to grips with the reality of heroin addiction. Consider these statistics about the New England region as reported by The New York Times:

  • Heroin killed 21 people in Maine last year, three times as many as in 2011
  • New Hampshire recorded 40 deaths from heroin overdoses last year, up from just 7 a decade ago.
  • In Vermont, the Health Department reported that 914 people were treated for heroin abuse last year, up from 654 the year before, an increase of almost 40 percent.

The Boston Globe published a report on July 18, 2013: Towns try to stop wave of heroin overdoses. The District Attorney of Norfolk County, Michael M. Morrissey, said: “I would be lying to you if I told you it’s not one of my biggest problems. It hits everybody’s families, it knows no socioeconomic or racial barrier — it just doesn’t matter.” For example, the reported overdoses in Brockton doubled in June. In a typical month Brockton might have 17 overdoses (not all deadly), but this June that number was 35 overdoses.

More headlines come from the states of Washington, Utah, Indiana, Arizona, Wisconsin…the list goes on; and then there was this news item from New York /Connecticut concerning the arrest of the Regis High School Dean of Students: Darien man, dean of NYC school, charged with heroin possession.

NBC’s TODAY Program features the ‘new, fresh face of heroin’…

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

Treating the heroin addict…

Opiates produce their high by binding to naturally occurring endorphin receptor sites in the brain and, eventually disregulate the brain’s endorphin neurobiology. Endorphins are made and used by the brain to relieve physical and emotional pain. As the endorphin neurobiology becomes increasingly imbalanced, physical tolerance develops and the addict needs more and more of the opiate to get the desired mood-altering effect. Soon the addict becomes physiologically dependent on the opiate, needing ever increasing amounts of the drug to stave off painful withdrawal symptoms.

At Cottonwood Tucson’s addiction rehab, the treatment of opiate addiction usually starts with medically-managed detoxification. Our doctors prescribe medications that help the patient safely negotiate the opiate withdrawal process. Our counseling staff then focuses on helping the opiate addicted patient find more adaptive ways of managing emotional pain, anxiety and an often-present sense of boredom, restlessness and dis-ease. Mind/body therapies can help our opiate addicted patients become more aware of how and where in their body they carry these feelings. It is also sometimes necessary to address issues relating to the addict identity and lifestyle.

Looking forward…

Perhaps Cory Monteith’s life and his passing will be a message for parents, teenagers and young adults to learn more about the dangers and symptoms of heroin use. It is important to remember that while many news outlets will emphasis the “new face” of heroin the truth is heroin has been around for over 125 years and Cory is not the first celebrity to die as a result of a heroin overdose. Heroin use and abuse takes lives every day in the United States and these people come from every walk of life, every community, every socioeconomic demographic…the heroin addict might be your co-worker, your neighbor, your child; however, it is also important to remember that recovery is possible.

Start the conversation…

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