What Today’s Heroin Addict Looks Like

What Today's Heroin Addict Looks Like
Image by Thomas Leuthard via Flickr

As the U.S. finds itself in the grips of an opioid epidemic, it is becoming clear that today’s heroin addict no longer fits the stereotypical image that many have built up in their head. The typical heroin user is no longer the middle-aged urban male of lower socio-economic status – he or she is younger, whiter and more suburban than ever before. A large study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry found that the average patient being treated at American addiction recovery centers is just 23 years old.

Changing Face of an Addict: Younger, Richer and More Suburban

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that heroin use is growing across all age groups, income levels and genders, and is growing most rapidly among groups that aren’t typically seen among those addicted to drugs. Higher-income people and women, who historically have low levels of heroin use, have seen shocking growth in abuse of the addictive drug.  Many of those who become addicted to heroin come by way of prescription opioids. The typical heroin addict today starts with a legally prescribed prescription painkiller such as Vicodin or OxyContin before eventually moving on to cheaper, more effective and much more dangerous street drugs including heroin.      

Prescription Painkillers: A New Gateway Drug

When a prescription painkiller abuser starts abusing heroin or another street drug, his or her risk of overdose greatly balloons. A number of factors are behind this jump in risk. Illegal street drugs are not regulated and thus are not labeled for dose, have inconsistent potency and are more likely to be misused. Due to the lack of labeling, it is very easy for a heroin abuser to administer a fatal overdose. As opioid use has grown among new groups of Americans, overdose has grown in tandem. From 2002 to 2013, heroin-related overdose deaths have nearly quadrupled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How to Stop It

Ending the heroin epidemic will require a multi-pronged solution and it will take a long time. At every level, states, doctors and addiction treatment centers are doing their part to reduce the likelihood that somebody will become addicted and to improve treatment options of addiction does occur. The CDC recommends expanding access to overdose-preventing drugs, addressing the high prescription rate of opioid painkillers and easing access to addiction treatment services, among other things.

If you or somebody you know is addicted to heroin or another opiate drug, enroll in a treatment program at CASA Recovery today. CASA Recovery uses a holistic approach that considers the mind, body and soul of everybody who comes through our doors. Treatment of heroin abuse in San Juan Capistrano, CA, at CASA Recovery begins with helping the addicted individual using medication, an improved diet and exercise. Our patients relax in a relaxing home-like environment that is sure to be comfortable. For more information about our Orange County, CA addiction treatment center, contact us today and let our experienced staff assist you!