Heroin can destroy any family

This undated photo shows packets and plastic containers of heroin confiscated in Philadelphia. (SEPTA Transit Police via AP)

This undated photo shows packets and plastic containers of heroin confiscated in Philadelphia. (SEPTA Transit Police via AP)

“Heroin has destroyed my life, and I don’t even use the stuff.”

When I heard my mom’s friend say that, my heart broke for her.

She has two sons. One son has gone down the wrong path ever since he started using drugs at age 12. Now at 25, he continues to struggle with his heroin addiction. He has not yet found a rehab center that could help him. He had a history of leaving rehab and doing whatever he could to get his hands on drugs. Now his mother has to pay over $2,000 in lawyer fees as she continues to look for the right solution for her son.

Her other son has started using heroin now, and she fears he will be in the same situation as his brother.

Heroin use in the United States has more than doubled since 2002, and the drug has particularly increased in popularity among women and young adults. More often than not, the obituary section of the newspaper shows the familiar faces of young people who all had the same addiction. “Increase comes with a devastating price: Deaths from heroin-related overdoses nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013,” reports CNN.

The growing popularity of heroin is directly related to the overprescription and misuse of stronger and stronger painkillers. Fentanyl is one such drug, known for causing the death of Prince.

“An illicit version of the drug is flooding into communities across America, and casual users are finding out that their fentanyl pills and powder are delivering a powerful high that is easy to overdose on,” reports CNN writer Sarah Sidner. “The Drug Enforcement Administration and the Centers for Disease Control say we have another national health crisis on our hands. These are just a handful of the people trying to stop it from taking more lives.”

Health experts are calling heroin use a national epidemic. Too many patients who find themselves addicted to opioids like fentanyl make the switch to heroin because it is cheaper and easier to get. There is no typical person who uses heroin. Resulting overdose deaths can devastate any family, though most users are described as young suburban middle to upper class people.

Earlier this year, the federal government approved a bill to combat the epidemic with $181 million dollars in grants and public funding. Some researchers hope that some of that money can go to creating and supplying drugs to combat heroin use, provide education to prevent heroin seeking in the first place, and invest in more and better rehabilitation clinics.

No one should suffer like my mother’s friend. No one wants to see their child in prison or, worse, overdosing on heroin. She doesn’t want to let heroin take her sons away from her. A drug she has never touched is destroying her life. We need to stop this epidemic before it claims more young lives.

Holly Martin is a journalism student at Temple University and an on-air DJ for Temple’s WHIP Radio.

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