Opioid Addiction Impacts on the Middle Class
Has opioid addiction become a middle class phenomenon? For several years there has been a shift in those using heroin, placing the middle class in the midst of the heroin epidemic. This change in the use of heroin from the city to the suburbs appears to be related to the abuse of prescription narcotics including oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl. It is not uncommon for people to be prescribed these medications by a doctor to manage pain. Individuals who use the medication can then become dependent on it for their day to day life.
A dose that would work to relieve pain in the past soon isn’t enough and more medication must be taken to achieve the same result, leading to addiction. When people are no longer able to afford these medications or their prescriptions run out, they will switch to heroin as a cheaper alternative to achieve similar effects. The people struggling with addiction are not who you may think, they are professional middle-class Americans.
When did this shift in heroin addiction happen?
Before the 1990’s doctors weren’t prescribing these powerful narcotics to patients. There were people who were suffering from pain and were unable to find relief. This led to an increase in more patients receiving prescriptions for these powerful medications. In 2012 U.S. doctors wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers. One side effect became an increase in prescription painkiller abuse and overdoses.
Between 1999 and 2008, U.S. sales of prescription narcotics rose 300% according to a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Drug overdoses tripled during roughly the same period, largely due to prescription narcotics. Deceptive marketing practices are also part of the problem as OxyContin was said to be safer, and less addictive than Vicodin or Percocet. When the medication is crushed and snorted or injected, it is capable of producing a high as powerful as heroin.
The shift from prescription narcotics to heroin begins to take place during the 1990’s. By 2010 approximately 90 percent of recently initiated heroin abusers were white, and half were women. The idea of a heroin dealer being a scary man in a dark corner of a bad neighborhood evolved to middle class individuals getting the drug from neighbors or classmates. Middle class kids and women became common victims of heroin overdoses. An estimated 45,000 Americans lose their lives overdosing on opioids and heroin each year in the United States.
Teens in the suburbs are also at an increased risk when it comes to heroin addiction. Once again, the addiction to narcotics doesn’t start with heroin, it begins with doctors prescribing painkillers and antidepressants. Many young Americans are receiving these prescriptions to manage pain from oral surgeries, injuries and more. These prescriptions begin to be abused and once they run out, teens are left searching for a replacement.
Addiction to prescription drugs and heroin is treatable, especially if caught early. Specialized treatment for opioid addiction at A New Start, Inc. can get you or a loved one started on the path to a drug free life. Our dedicated team is here to help guide you through the addiction recovery journey. Contact A New Start, Inc. today at 844.TALK.ANS to learn more about our addiction treatment program.