24 Mar Teens and the Changing Face of Heroin Addiction
The long fingers of heroin addiction have stretched well past the inner cities of the U.S. and now grasp at every corner of the country. The newest and most troubling face of heroin addiction is the high school student.
Heroin use and addiction isn’t restricted to the “bad” kids, either. Athletes, straight-A students, cheerleaders and everyone in between are susceptible to heroin addiction and impacted by this terrible drug. The statistics and news stories are overwhelming evidence that America’s teens are getting lost in heroin.
How Heroin Addiction Starts
A troubling trend is emerging in high schools across the country. In 2011, 3 percent of high school students reported using heroin. That number is alarming enough, but it has only gone up since then. Young people don’t start out with heroin. They most often begin with prescription painkillers. Narcotic painkillers and heroin are both opioid drugs. This means they are derived from substances in the opioid poppy, and they act on the central nervous system to relieve pain and give the user a high.
Teens sometimes start out with drugs prescribed by a doctor, especially athletes suffering from injuries. But, teens may also start abusing prescription painkillers they get from a friend. They mistakenly believe that because the drugs are prescribed by doctors, they are low risk. What they don’t always realize is that these medications are highly addictive.
As abuse of prescription narcotics soared over the last decade, doctors, policy makers and law enforcement agents have cracked down on the medications. With these drugs becoming scarcer and more expensive, addicts turned to a cheaper and readily available drug that is similar: heroin. Some reports also indicate that some teens have been tricked into using heroin by unscrupulous dealers. They are given a crushed white powder to snort, thinking it is a painkiller or even cocaine. The drug turns out to be heroin, and the teens get hooked unwittingly.
Tragic Stories of Heroin Addiction
The statistics and numbers are alarming, but the real tragedy is seen in the individual stories of addiction, overdose and ruined lives. In one such story, a high school football player started taking Percocet when a friend offered it to him. They thought it was no big deal to dabble in prescription drugs, but the young man quickly became addicted. When he couldn’t get the drug anymore, he turned to heroin.
After many years of trying to get clean, he suffered from a fatal overdose. His young life was cut too short, and his parents must live with that tragic loss. This story is just one of many that include young athletes, well-adjusted kids, and teens growing up in happy, middle class families. Many have died from their habits, while others face lifelong treatment and struggle.
Protecting Your Teen
If you have a teenager who is happy, gets good grades, is an athlete or has a lot of friends you probably think heroin is the last thing you need to worry about. The statistics and news stories tell a different tale. The best way you can protect your teen from the devastation of heroin addiction is to talk to her.
Kids whose parents speak to them about drugs and alcohol are much less likely to abuse substances. Most, however, never hear from their parents about this important subject. Talk to your teen about prescription drugs and heroin and you could be saving her life and her future.
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