Unless you’ve been living abroad or somewhere that news about the United States is unavailable, you’ve more than likely heard about the crisis the country is facing. Opioid drugs have decimated our culture, contributing to the deaths of 42,000 people a year on average. That translates to roughly 130 people a day dying on U.S. soil from opiate overdoses. The misuse and addiction to prescription drugs, heroin, and fentanyl is a crisis affecting our social and economic welfare.
Not to put a cost on human life, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that opioids place a $78.5 billion a year economic burden to our government. It includes costs such as healthcare, lost job productivity, addiction treatment, and criminal justice involvement. It has been many years of this spiraling out of control, and even with newly implemented initiatives, we are still struggling to contain the illegal use of heroin. You may wonder, how did it ever get to be like this?
In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical representatives began approaching physicians about their product. When doctors voiced their concerns about the potential for addiction, they were reassured by these reps that patients would not become addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers. Unfortunately, this opened the floodgates and doctors began prescribing at historic levels.
With reassurances from big pharma, it generated what could be one of the most deadly epidemics facing us in modern times. As prescriptions began to flow, the overdose deaths associated began to skyrocket. Once the government started taking notice, they began implementing strict policies to reduce the number of prescriptions. It seemed to exacerbate the problem because it pushed people to purchase heroin when they couldn’t refill their pain medication prescriptions.
Today, an estimated 1.7 million people in the United States suffer from substance use disorders that relate to prescription opioid pain relievers, and another 652,000 suffered from a heroin use disorder. Roughly 21 to 29 percent of patients prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse them, and another eight to 12 percent develop and opioid use disorder. With that, an estimated 80 percent of heroin users describe using prescription opioids prior to their heroin addiction.
As was mentioned above, those who have become addicted to opiates have a difficult time stopping on their own, and when they discover the cost of prescription medication on the street, they find transitioning over to heroin to be a cheaper alternative. Heroin produces stronger effects for a fraction of the price.
As a parent, guardian, or close friend, you may wonder what heroin paraphernalia may look like. You may be concerned about a friend or loved one that has become increasingly dependent on pain medications, and they’ve begun the transition to heroin. It is imperative to arm yourself with this information, which can allow you to intervene in case someone has already started using heroin. Addiction is a disease, and early detection is vital to saving someone’s life as you’ll find with any disease.
How is Heroin Consumed?
There are various methods of consumption when it comes to heroin, and some of these will cause the drug to affect the brain and body more rapidly than others. In its purest form, heroin is a white powder that resembles the likes of cocaine or amphetamine, but other varieties include a brown powder or black tar. The color and texture of heroin indicate impurities or additives that it could potentially be cut with.
When heroin is cut with impurities, it requires additional preparation for it to be effective. The more work that gets put into using means more paraphernalia. The most common ways to heroin to be used include:
Heroin Paraphernalia Used to Prepare and Ingest Heroin
Due to the many ways it can be consumed, there are many different types of paraphernalia associated. These include:
Those who inject the drug into their veins or muscle do so to get the most immediate and intense result because it directly enters the bloodstream. The drug rapidly rushes to the brain, and within five minutes the user will be intoxicated. Injecting requires a lot of paraphernalia including a hypodermic needle (syringe), spoons, bottle caps, a tie off, which could be a shoe last or rubber hose, a lighter or candle.
Powdered heroin is sometimes smoked, typically by those who can still feel the effects through this means of administration. The paraphernalia includes aluminum foil, lighter or candle, a straw to inhale the smoke, or cigarettes and rolling papers to be rolled and smoked.
Powdered heroin can also be snorted when it is close to pure, and it produces a strong euphoric effect. There is less paraphernalia when it comes to snorting heroin, but someone who uses the drug in this way can use a straw, rolled bill or paper, or another small type that guides the heroin into their nostrils.
As you can see, there are various methods to consume heroin. If you happen to stumble across any of these, it’s necessary to sit down with the person and discuss their habit. If they have become addicted to heroin, they must enter into treatment. The numbers above paint a bleak picture about the future for those who use the drug, and many drug users lose their lives because of addiction.
Is Heroin Paraphernalia Dangerous?
Despite the route someone takes to consume drugs, they are dangerous and can post severe health risks to the lungs, heart, and liver. The equipment used to take these drugs can also present specific dangers.
One problem heroin users are up against is that many people share needles. The practice of sharing needles is attributed to the spread of HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis. Any blood-borne pathogens can be transmitted through sharing needles, which has been a problem in the drug community. Abscesses in the skin, tuberculosis, and sexually transmitted infections are also caused by or transmitted through dirty or shared needles.
Heroin abuse is also associated with hepatitis C, a type of viral hepatitis. Due to these diseases that can be spread, it can be dangerous if you poke yourself with a needle. If you find a needle, you must make sure that it has a cap. If it does not, you must take extreme precaution when moving the syringe to avoid potentially infecting yourself. Heroin paraphernalia can be extremely dangerous if you do not follow those instructions.
If someone you know is using heroin, they must get the help they need. Heroin withdrawal is among the most uncomfortable feelings someone can experience; however, with the proper channels, it can be treated efficiently and comfortably. Medical detoxification, such that Arete Recovery offers can help someone move into the next stages of their lives away from drugs.