Outside of America, the mindless stupidity of heroin addiction, that is currently ravaging the white Middle Class, is a relatively unknown phenomenon. Even the Presidential hopefuls are being intensively interrogated about their plans to remedy the situation. Teenager-dom is a turbulent period in youngsters lives and experimentation is the norm, but why is there is sudden spike in heroin addiction in the United States?
Main picture: The final humiliation
In 2014, 47 055 people died of heroin overdoses. This level of death equates to the level of deaths on a battle front. The 15 year involvement of America in the Vietnamese War only resulted in 58 000 American deaths. Of the 2 326 US military deaths up to 1st October 2015 in Afghanistan & Iraq over 15 years, only 1 856 were as a result of hostile enemy action.
Yet 47 055 deaths due to heroin overdoses barely rates a mention.
An interesting dynamic has arisen which reflects the background of the victims of this scourge. Instead of the mandatory jail time which is meted out to the previous victims – the disaffected black youths – the white middle class is demanding alternative options instead, such as mandatory treatment. Into this cauldron of despair has been thrown the race card. Largely left unspoken is an admission of why different norms are now being mooted.
Apart from the skewed racial profile, previous addiction epidemics were largely an urban phenomenon. In this case it is vastly different. In fact, death rates from overdoses in rural areas now outpace the rate in large metropolitan areas, which historically had higher rates.
Again the question has to be raised, “Why?”
This is not to say that no other groups are immune to this manifestation. It is happening in the inner cities, rural and affluent communities.
In this context, the deaths relating to heroin actually relate to a class of drugs known as opioids. This category includes heroin and fentanyl. Most of the deaths arise due to a version of fentanyl, a painkiller which is 100 times more powerful than morphine. Like all illicit drugs, the quality of heroin is unmonitored and is largely adulterated. Given the imperatives of this illicit trade, dealers will lace heroin with it or sell pure fentanyl under the guise of being heroin.
Driving the middle class concerns about this addiction is the lack of access to treatment programs. In fact fentanyl can be deadlier than heroin. It takes much more naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, to revive someone who has overdosed on fentanyl.
One of the unintended consequences of various laws which addressed the misuse of prescription painkillers have forced addicts in desperation to convert to heroin instead. That is not to assume that I believe in this wanton misuse of prescription drugs but just that all the unintended consequences need to be born in mind as well in order to derive an holistic approach to a problem. An interesting statistic which has been revealed is that heroin addicts are 40 times more likely to be addicted to prescription painkillers as well.
Even with adequate rehabilitation facilities being available, when a recovered addict returns to the same environment after treatment, it is extremely difficult for them to stay clean. The rate of relapse is extremely high. Furthermore, like other addictions, heroin craving continues to haunt a person for years.
Another depressing phenomenon with this epidemic is that the addiction is being passed down from generation to generation in certain small communities. It is not unheard of for three generations of one family to be heroin addicts.
Nowhere can clear reasons be discerned why such an avowedly deadly drug is now obtaining acceptance and traction within the community.
Facile campaigns such as mandatory sentencing and harsh penalties have not been successful in eradicating addictive substances in the past.
That leaves mandatory rehabilitation as the only viable option.
I researched the internet to understand the reasons for this drugs resurgence, yet all I could find were graphs on drug usage patterns but no incisive commentary on what is driving this carnage.
Surely above all else is what needs to happen in order to drive the correct remedial action is to understand the underlying reasons for this epidemic?
Unless that is done, and the root causes established, another generation will be lost to the ravages of drug addiction.
New York Times: How the Epidemic of Drug Overdose Deaths Ripples Across America