The Heroin Epidemic: A Public Health Issue

The presence of heroin in the American drug scene has been relatively constant for many years. However, the recent spike in heroin abuse and deaths by overdose has President Obama referring to this epidemic as a public health issue. Although it has gotten some attention, those ignorant to addiction will still blame a heroin addict for choosing that lifestyle. Despite this misconception, there are multiple other contributors that affect their addiction to heroin. The government can partially be to blame, according to an article in The Rolling Stone,

“…heroin was first trademarked and introduced to the masses by Bayer, the German pharmaceutical company, and sold as an over-the-counter cough suppressant from 1898 to 1914.”

Although the drug very well could have found its way into the United States, the government pretty much handed over an addictive substance to citizens without thinking twice.

Many can argue the fact that an addict consciously chooses to get high initially, which is true. However, there have been studies in which it is shown that a number of heroin users started out abusing opioid prescription pills and eventually were forced to turn to heroin as a result of its cheaper price and easier accessibility.

Tracey Helton Mitchell, a recovering addict, speaks in an NPR podcast about how she was turned onto heroin after first being prescribed opioid painkillers post-wisdom teeth surgery at age 17.

opiod to heroin

There are a handful of people in governmental positions that have been taking the steps towards putting an end to this epidemic. Peter Shulmin, governor of Vermont, has taken the initiative to help end this health issue that has taken control of his state. Shulmin now requires every trooper within his state to carry naloxone and also be trained to administer this drug.

Although it has yet to be mandated throughout the country, many states have followed Vermont’s lead. Some states even provide training with administering this drug for addicts and their families, as well as providing them with naloxone, to help reduce the number of deaths by overdose. In this video, you can see a police officer from Upper Darby, Pennsylvania saving a man’s life thanks to this handy drug.

There is currently an overall misconception within the justice system that by incarcerating addicts that commit non-violent crimes due to their addiction, they can help them get clean. The efforts being put forth by Pamela Rodriguez and Melody Heaps can hopefully put an end to this belief. Rodriguez and Heaps, along with their associates at TASC, believe that the cycle of addiction, crime, and release can be broken by putting these individuals in treatment to help stop the issue, which is their addiction.

Until the government decides to take more action towards ending this epidemic, heroin will continue to claim lives. The justice system needs to start treating these addicts like anyone else with a disease and stop treating them like criminals.

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