Young White Men Overdosing Most from Heroin

addict 2713620 640 1

addict 2713620 640 1

Heroin abuse has been near the forefront of the drug addiction epidemic of 21st century America. Heroin made a comeback in the early 2000s and has continued to grow in popularity since then. After almost a decade of almost no heroin abuse in the U.S., this drug is now at the top of the charts, causing more people to become addicted, and to die from it, than ever before.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heroin abuse has increased by more than five hundred percent in the last decade. Deaths from heroin have increased by more than three-hundred percent in that same time period. Today, most heroin users started out as opioid pill addicts, opioid pills being a huge problem of their own.

But the real question that stays on everyone’s mind, unanswered and unverified is, “Who is being affected most by heroin?” After much research that answer is now available.

White, Young, Lower-Income Men are the Most at Risk for Overdosing on Heroin

When the heroin epidemic first took off in the mid-2000s, it was white middle-aged women who were most hurt most by it. That has since changed. Now, the demographic that suffers the most from heroin abuse is not white middle-aged women from suburban communities, but young white men with low-income levels and low education attainment.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, white men between the age of twenty-five and forty-four account for the highest overdose rates of all recorded demographics. In fact, men in this category die at a rate of thirteen deaths for every one-hundred-thousand residents. That is a twenty-two percent increase from just one year ago.

A CDC lead researcher and professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Silvia Martins, said this about the overdose uptick amongst young men:

  • “We saw that most of them had already used prescription opioids. We saw that in 2001-2002, only 36 percent of white heroin users reported they had already used prescription opioids before. Now, more than half of them, fifty-three percent of them, said they had used prescription opioids before. So we believe there is a link to the prescription opioid epidemic. Other potential reasons for that are the fact that heroin has become cheaper in recent years in the U.S.”

These are likely just a few of the factors involved. A problem as severe as this is also likely complex and likely quite intricate, one that will take some diligence and effort to truly understand and resolve.

The Drug Enforcement Administration’s Stance on the Increasing Heroin Death Toll

The Drug Enforcement Administration is tasked with addressing problems of this nature, as their primary function is preventing drug abuse from occurring in the United States. From their research, one-third of one percent of Americans abused heroin ten years ago. Now, 1.61 percent of Americans abuse heroin, an increase by more than five-hundred percent, with young white men being the most heavily targeted demographic.

According to DEA spokesman Rusty Payne:

  • “The world is filled with addicts who got a legitimate prescription for an opioid and then became dependent on that and continued long after their recovery. Pill addiction is extremely expensive, so they move to heroin because it’s cheaper and easier to get. The DEA is seeing a lot of the traffickers who have substituted fentanyl for heroin, and so it’s just a vicious cycle of addiction we’ve seen with a lot of people.”

Seeking a Resolution

Finding a resolution in the morass of substance abuse and the fact that the problem just keeps growing no matter what we do can seem difficult and even insurmountable. Recently, the Trump Administration declared a National Public Health Emergency as pertains to opioids, and just before that, Congress apportioned six-hundred million dollars to offer relief and rehabilitation services to those who are currently addicted to drugs.

It is a big problem, so it will need a big resolution. Young men are dying left and right from heroin overdoses, so they need immediate assistance before their addiction gets totally out of hand. We need to raise awareness for the risks involved with opioids, both prescription opioids, synthetic, illegally-made opioids, and heroin. Parents need to have discussions with their kids, even their adult sons, and daughters, about the risks involved with drug use. Schools and churches need to teach this information too. Law enforcement offices can get involved as well.

Efforts like the above would cover the prevention side of things, but we need resources for the rehabilitation side of things too. Those who are currently addicted to heroin absolutely need rehabilitation and treatment resources, full detoxification and residential rehabilitation services to help them address both the chemical and the psychological implications of heroin abuse. Only by addressing both the prevention and the rehabilitation side of things will we be able to fully resolve this epidemic.


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