The face of drug use and specifically Heroin use in America has changed drastically over the past few decades, and so has its demographics. While 50 years ago Heroin addicts were predominantly young, black males in the inner-city. Today, Heroin users are all over the country, often in the suburbs and almost half of users are white women.
Heroin overdose deaths among women have more than tripled in the last few years. And we have seen prescription pain pill use along with heroin increase dramatically among adolescents.
Many people don’t use heroin alone. Yet many are also unaware that when other depressant drugs are taken with heroin, the chances of overdose increase.
People often don’t understand why someone would continue to use drugs after overdosing. They say “isn’t that a wake-up call” or “they must have been scared straight.” Yet naloxone can precipitate withdrawal symptoms which will make people have a strong urge to use more drugs. Or, if they have taken drugs that last longer in your system and the naloxone wears off, these drugs can still impact you.
The reasons why people use drugs are many and quite complex. We often miss the boat and fail to understand the complexity of psychological factors and motivations that lead people to begin using in the first place.
While it is harder for someone without a substance abuse problem or addiction to truly understand how a person could choose to not get help after experiencing such consequences as a result of use, especially after a near-death experience like an overdose—it is important to remember that this is the very definition of addiction. Someone might continue to use drugs, despite adverse consequences and bad outcomes.
But when someone makes the conscious decision to stop using drugs, the battle doesn’t end there. There are many things that need to be worked on, including defining what life will be like and how to live drug-free after so long.
The person in recovery will often have to address issues that have come up as a result of their use, such as legal issues, and often relationships that have been damaged during their active drug use.
Avoiding people and situations that might trigger use is also essential, along with addressing any other mental health issues that might be present like depression or anxiety. Hence, this process is mostly about learning a whole new way of life and daily habits.
All of this can be extremely challenging, but it is doable. If you or someone you know is experiencing addiction, developing an adequate treatment plan is essential to achieve recovery. A free service like Freedom From Addiction can be of help to explore the different treatment options available. For 24/7 assistance, call 1.855.RECOVER or 1.855.732.6837.
Dr. Rachel Needle has specialized training in the area of substance use disorders. She is a professional consultant to substance abuse facilities and assists them in expanding and enhancing clinical programming. Dr. Needle also does expert training on the topic of substance abuse, mental illness, and sexual health for staff members at residential and outpatient facilities that specialize in alcohol and substance use disorders.
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