It is hard to be aware of the news nationally or even around our community and not see the increase of arrests and overdoses related to opioid drugs. It is comparable to when you see a mouse in your house. It is not likely that the mouse just walked in your home that day and it is not likely that it doesn’t have a few friends by his side. So, when did heroin and other opioids start showing up? The use of opioids became the prescription drug of choice during the late 90’s, which included the stronghold of Oxycontin, for those experiencing any kind of pain.
Not Just The City
Rural America was hit hard by the influx of pain medications. Consider the industries in the rural areas and the chronic pain related to repetitive movements. Taking pain medications became a common part of life for many to continue supporting their families’ needs and desires.
The quick-fixes of pain meds create a dependence on these drugs even after the employment that created the pain has stopped. In fact, the opioid drugs reduce the body’s ability to cope with pain far below the levels of pain which initiated the prescription.
One study showed that in rural West Virginia that 63 percent of overdoses on prescription drugs were not by people who had a prescription. In rural networks, the family and friends are the most common source of prescription drug dependency. Drug seeking after the prescriptions have run dry from family and friends can lead to very shady circumstances, but not necessarily.
In my community, I have heard of more than one instance of senior citizens supplementing their incomes by selling their pain medications. Apparently, it is relatively easy for a senior citizen to supplement their incomes by $300 a month to nice young men or women in their neighborhood. Not exactly the drug dealers that come to mind.
According to the CDC, in 2014 there were more than 47,000 drug overdose deaths in the United States. More than half of those deaths were at the hands of opioids. Drug overdoses have surpassed gun deaths and car crashes as the leading cause of “injury deaths” in the US.
The addiction to opioid drugs knows no discrimination. No race, gender, or economic levels are immune. Heroin is both cheap and readily available.
Speaking confidentially to one of my former clients, she told me that she would drive to Toledo (an hour-long drive) two to three times a day, a few days a week to afford her apartment, new car, and current life-style. She stated she would pick up 50 packs of heroin, keep two to five for herself, and then return to our small rural town and sell the other 45 or so. I asked how she could find so many buyers and she laughed. Apparently finding buyers is not difficult. Unfortunately, hers was one of the several funerals I attended this last year due to the senseless death of drug overdoses.
The jump from pain killers to heroin is not has huge as you may think. In 2013, doctors wrote 207 million prescriptions for painkillers compared to 76 million in 1991. Because of the addiction to pain medications, the DEA began to crack down on doctors by monitoring their prescription habits as well as on the producers of pain medications by reducing the manufacturing limits. On the surface reducing the amount of prescriptions and production is a step in the right direction; however, the demand is as high as ever and heroin has stepped up to fill the void in the market.