It seems that every time you turn on the news, there’s another sad story about somebody overdosing on heroin, and possibly dying from an opioid overdose. But is the media just focusing on heroin more, or is there really an epidemic going on? The unfortunate answer is that heroin overdoses are in fact becoming more common, and there are a few reasons for this, including increased use, fatal drug combinations, and overdoses that happen during relapse.
Heroin Overdoses Become More Common as Use Increases
One of the main reasons that heroin overdoses are on the rise is, quite simply, because use is on the rise. According to the CDC, heroin use more than doubled between 2007 and 2013, and this increase in use led to an increase in overdoses. In fact, deaths from heroin overdoses quadrupled between 2002 and 2013, and this is largely because of the increasing number of people using the drug. However, this upsurge in use isn’t the only contributing factor to the rising overdose rates.
Heroin Overdoses from Combined Drug Intoxication
Another reason heroin overdoses and heroin-related deaths are becoming so common is because people tend to use multiple drugs in conjunction with heroin. In 2013, 59 percent of the people who died from a heroin overdose were also using other drugs. Mixed drugs have a much higher overdose rate than just one drug used alone, and this is due in part to the quantity of drugs being taken, but also because of the varying effects that different drugs have on the body.
Withdrawal and Relapse Overdoses
Many people who are addicted to heroin try to quit at least once, and every detox leads to the possibility of a relapse, and every relapse carries a significant risk of overdose. With heroin specifically, you never really know how much of the pure drug you’re taking, which means every hit is a gamble. This becomes even more dangerous after a detox period, because your body’s tolerance for the drug has dropped, meaning a regular hit could easily cause an overdose, and possibly a deadly one. Heroin use leads to slowed breathing and can cause you to stop breathing entirely if you take too much. People who are trying to quit are the most susceptible to these kinds of overdoses.
Prescription Painkillers are a Major Risk Factor for Use
All of this raises one question: if heroin use is on the rise—and therefore the number of overdoses from people taking too much, combining drugs, and relapsing—then why is heroin use on the rise in the first place? While there is no single answer to this question, the biggest risk factor contributing to the increase is prescription painkiller use. The vast majority of prescription painkillers are opioids, and this means they’re addictive. So people who are given painkillers to treat legitimate pain become addicted, and when the prescription runs out they turn to heroin as a cheaper and readily available alternative that fills their cravings.
As heroin use becomes more common because of the number of people getting addicted through prescription painkiller use, so too will overdoses continue to rise. If you’re concerned for yourself or a loved one, watch out for the symptoms of painkiller addiction, which include seeing multiple doctors, having multiple prescriptions, and taking higher doses than what’s been prescribed. There is help available, so if you or a loved one is suffering from an opioid addiction, look into rehab options with tried and true facilities like Beachway Therapy Center, and contact Beachway today.