Over the past 15 years, heroin and opiate use has become an epidemic of significant proportions in the United States, impacting communities from nearly every socioeconomic category in tragic ways. Many researchers have estimated that the number of people currently using heroin for the first time is nearly double the number of people in 2006, due in large part to the over prescription of opioids.
2018 data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse show that “every day, 128 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids. The misuse of and addiction to opioids—including prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl-is a serious national crisis that affects public health as well as social and economic welfare.”
Chronic intravenous heroin users, in addition to being at elevated risk for death due to overdose, are also more vulnerable to contracting diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C.
How to tell if you or a loved one is using heroin problematically?
The following criteria come from the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) released by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013:
- Heroin is taken in larger amounts or over a longer period of time than was intended.
- A persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control heroin use.
- A great deal of time is spent in activities, necessary to obtain heroin, use heroin, or recover from its effects.
- Craving or a strong desire or urge to use heroin.
- Recurrent heroin use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school or home.
- Continued heroin use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol.
- Recurrent heroin use in situations in which it is physically hazardous.
- Heroin use is continued despite knowledge of having persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problems likely to have been caused or exacerbated by heroin.
- Physical or psychological issues that are likely to have been caused or exacerbated by heroin use.
- High tolerance for heroin use.
- Withdrawal symptoms experienced without using heroin.
If you or a loved one’s heroin use meet at least two of these criteria in the past 12 months, then you may be suffering from a substance use disorder requiring treatment.