Mass media still depicts the average heroin user as part of a sub-society. Images of impoverished individuals walking the streets, shooting up in public restrooms or held up in abandoned buildings are the norm. Although this might be true in some situations, heroin use in the suburbs and among professionals is clear.
Heroin Addiction Crosses All Socio-Economic Lines
According to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the number of heroin users in the U.S. has doubled in the five year period between 2007 and 2012. The numbers went from 373,00 to almost 700,000. As more individuals are becoming open about their struggles with heroin, we are beginning to recognize that every-day, otherwise “normal” individuals….judges, lawyers, school teachers, accountants, and business owners, are struggling with debilitating addictions. Just look at some of these blurbs pulled from news stories. They speak for themselves when asking the question, “Who is today’s heroin addict?”
Who Are Today’s Heroin Users & Addicts?
- A teacher at Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design, was arrested as he returned from a lunch break on a Manhattan murder case with 20 baggies of heroin stuffed into a packet of Parliament cigarettes. He teaches 10th-grade social studies and earns $63,602.
- For years, Michelle lived a double life in picturesque Putnam County, N.Y. A teacher and mother, she was also a heroin addict. “I’m a great mom,” Michelle told NBC News. “I’m a teacher. I’m a daughter, a niece. I’m all of these great things and then I am a heroin addict showing up at a Fourth of July party with track marks.”
- David is used to standing before a judge. As a prominent defense lawyer, he has helped numerous clients escape sentencing, until he had to appear before a judge in a very different capacity – as an accused criminal and drug user battling addiction.
- Christopher Taylor was a aeronautical engineer and Gaynor Taylor was a loving stay-at-home mom of five boys and one girl. They seemed like a normal family. A happy family. Their 25-year-old daughter, Jade states, “Heroin has taken us down one by one.” as she struggles to wean herself off with methadone so she doesn’t lose her newborn.
These true stories assure us that heroin addiction can affect anyone. Current research, although somewhat useful, doesn’t provide real insights into the lives or struggles of today’s heroin user:
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heroin use is most often seen in adults between the ages of 25 and 44.
- Men are four time more likely to experience a fatal overdose from heroin than women. In fact, research showed in 2013 there were 1,732 deaths among female heroin users due to overdoes, while 6,525 deaths among male users.
- The average heroin user tries this drug at age 23. Many are from middle- and upper-middle class suburban families.
There is no cookie-cutter heroin addict. This drug can prey on anyone. It’s only by raising awareness that we can reach out to those who may feel too trapped, alone and ashamed to find help on their own.
“When I went away for drug treatment, my parents didn’t know I was an IV drug user. I mean, how do you tell them that? They would be horrified. There is this frightening stigma attached to heroin that most people don’t even want to think about. If you say you take pain pills, it’s okay. If you say you drink too much, that’s fine…but try telling your family you shoot heroin in your bedroom every morning before school. I don’t even think they’d be able to process that.”
These are the words of a college student. She could be anybody’s daughter. She could live anywhere. We might picture her in a high-crime, shady part of town. The truth is, she is from one of the wealthiest areas in the nation. But she could be your daughter, your son, your husband or wife. Anyone can fall into addiction. We have to be willing to take a look at our workplace, our family, our friends, and our sphere of influence and ask ourselves…Where can I help? How can I understand? How can I reach out.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, contact the Shores Treatment and Recovery Center for help. Don’t wait. We’re here for you.