Substance abuse is a public health issue that affects millions of people and their loved ones, tearing lives and families apart. Heroin addiction is a particularly devastating condition that affects an estimated 9.2 million people around the world. Heroin abuse affects sufferers and their families and friends on a personal level, and also takes its toll on healthcare costs and crime rates across America. While heroin addiction can be a daunting challenge, help is available and recovery is an achievable goal. The probability of recovery improves when the patient has the help and support of loved ones, and when the problem is addressed as early as possible.
Heroin use has a high rate of addiction and many first-time users go on to develop serious chemical dependency. Annual studies estimate that there are 150,000 new heroin users every year, and over 80 percent of them are under the age of 26. The addiction rate for first time users varies from year to year, but a 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 57.4 percent of people who used heroin in the past year were classified with dependence on or abuse of heroin. Along with nicotine, heroin is one of the most highly addictive substances known to man. Like nicotine, heroin use can be potentially life threatening, with an estimated 150,000 emergency room visits per year being attributed to heroin use and addiction, which is about 14 percent of all emergency room visits. Many cases never even make it to the emergency room; Dr. Joshua Bomberger, MD, of the San Francisco Department of Public Health gave a presentation in 2000 stating that over 80 percent of heroin overdose cases are found alone. Even one use of heroin can be fatal, and a habitual user is taking their life into their own hands with constantly diminishing odds.
Heroin’s Affects on Families
In addition to the devastation heroin abuse can cause to affected individuals and their families, the financial impact that heroin has on the general public is staggering. Heroin abuse takes a dramatic toll on the public health system, with as much as 18 percent of people who enter rehabilitation programs reporting that it is for heroin abuse. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, America spends over 11 billion dollars annually on health care related to heroin and other illegal drugs, with a total annual cost of 193 billion dollars spent on drug related crime, legislature and lost work productivity. Out of the people affected by heroin abuse, there are very few ‘functional addicts’, and many addiction sufferers lose their jobs and their homes, creating a strain on welfare and housing programs and contributing significantly to the crime rate across America.
While substance abuse is a difficult problem to overcome, it can be beaten, and help is available. Drug rehabilitation programs have proven to be the most effective method of treating heroin abuse, with completing rates for inpatient treatment programs as high as 65 percent. Inpatient programs remove the patient from their daily lives, which has proven to be more effective than outpatient programs that allow the patient to continue with daily patterns that often encourage drug use. Programs that combine inpatient therapy with medication treatment see the highest rate of success, with clinics that use a high dosage of methadone seeing success rates as high as 72.7 percent in a study conducted by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
The devastation caused by heroin addiction can be overcome, but it requires rigorous dedication to recovery. If you or a loved one is suffering from the symptoms of chemical dependency, help is out there. Seeking medical attention can be embarrassing