Many news reports, articles, and television programs are discussing the teen heroin epidemic moving through America. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of heroin users almost doubled. In 2007, for example, 337 thousand people were addicted to heroin in America and in 2012 that number jumped up to 669 thousand.
One television program told Jeff’s story, a social worker who was once a college student trying to score heroin on the Philadelphia streets. Now, he’s searching for heroin users so that he can save their lives. He’s helping others just like him get heroin treatment.
When asked the question, What could someone have done to get you into recovery?, he admits, ” At that point there was nothing anyone could do. I wanted to use. I was 19. I wanted to get high. That’s what I wanted to do.”
His answer highlights the dilemma with addiction. Most teens just don’t want to stop. The high they’re experiencing feels great. They feel good – for once! – and they don’t have to face the uncomfortable feelings they may be carrying inside. They don’t have to face the challenging demands of life.
Unlike Jeff, who as a teenager was clear that he wanted to keep using, some teens experience a high level of ambivalence. Despite the great feelings that come with getting high, some adolescents might be able to see the damage the drug is causing, like failing classes, getting expelled for being high on campus, major fights with your parents, getting kicked out of the house, and losing your girlfriend or boyfriend. Wanting to stop because of the problems but not wanting to stop because of the high is the ambivalence many teens may feel.
Yet, whether it’s the ambivalence or simply the strong desire to keep, many teens are not getting into heroin treatment. In America, nearly 24 million people (teens and adults) are addicted to alcohol or drugs. Yet only one in ten will get treatment.
What is Heroin?
Heroin is an opioid that is synthesized from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seedpod of the Asian poppy plant. Heroin can be injected or inhaled by snorting or sniffing or smoking it.
What Are the Symptoms of Heroin Use?
Symptoms of using the drug include:
- Red or raw nostrils
- Needle marks or scars on arms
- Wearing long sleeves at inappropriate times
- Medicinal breath
Physical evidence might include:
- Cough syrup
- Cotton swabs
- Spoons for heating heroin
Long-term symptoms include:
- Loss of appetite
- Brain damage
- Damage to the central nervous system
It’s important to know that heroin is a dangerous drug. It’s so addictive that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from, you’re likely going to get hooked. It’s a drug that doesn’t play favorites. Anyone from any socioeconomic group can become addicted to heroin within a short period of time. Plus, the drug essentially rewires the brain suppressing all instincts and slowing down the nervous system.
In some cases, the user becomes so relaxed that the brain doesn’t remember to breathe. Heroin users simply stop breathing, and that’s actually the most common cause of death among teen and adult heroin users.
Teen Heroin Treatment
Teen heroin treatment requires clinical, supervised detoxification in order to manage the withdrawal symptoms. Research has shown that the best combination of heroin treatment includes medication, such as methadone, to manage the withdrawal symptoms, as well as therapy to address the behavioral and psychological issues that contributed to the addiction in the first place. Long lasting treatment includes creating a new lifestyle in which different daily choices are made, creating a strong support system, and examining the thoughts and behaviors that might be contributing to the cycle of addiction.