I feel like a hero – and you are my heroin

That’s right. The heroin epidemic is so out of control in the US, The Cincinnati Enquirer has their own Terry DeMio to report on all things heroin-related.

In more than half of the states, heroin use is on a steep incline.

From 2000 to 2014, there has been a 138.8 percent increase in drug overdoses. 61% of overdoses in 2014 were opioid/heroin-related. Prescribed medications such as fentanyl are becoming more prevalent, and that drug is 50 times more powerful than heroin.

Perhaps most alarming is the numbers in New Jersey, which has been coined Herointown by a group of journalists in the area. This project includes a page dedicated to every person who died from heroin in the state since 2004 and includes more than 5000 people’s names, ages, hometowns and years of death.

And that is only the deceased victims in a single state. Think of how many people are living with this addiction right now.

Besides the visible symptoms like shortness of breath, dry mouth, small pupils, sudden changes in behavior, disorientation and droopy appearance, heroin causes lasting bone damage.

  1. Osteomyelitis

Osteomyelitis is correlated with drug abuse involving a needle. This is a bone infection that travels through the blood stream. Because it is most likely to affect the spine in adults, it can cause lifelong disability. If caught soon enough – which is unlikely to be the case if you are a drug abuser – the infected bone can be removed through surgery.

2. Osteoporosis

Opiate abuse has been linked to osteopenia, which means a decrease in bone density. Eventually, this can take a turn for the worst, becoming osteoporosis. This can cause the bones to become so brittle, a simple fall can cause them to fracture.

3. Arthritis

Because addicts usually also suffer from malnutrition, their joints usually weaken. The nutritional deficiencies negatively affect the body’s ability to repair itself, causing osteoarthritis.

4. Poor Posture

Opiate users are known to have poor posture. The weakening of the muscles that support the spine can increase pain and the risk of injury just from doing everyday activities.

5. Partial Paralysis

The atrophied muscles and bone diseases associated with heroin use can lead to paralysis of the affected areas.

If all of these horrible things – and loads more, by the way – are possible, why are the numbers increasing so dramatically?

Simple economics. The US has seen a decrease in cocaine and Oxycontin use. These drugs have become more expensive and harder to get. More people are turning to heroin, the cheaper drug that can be purchased for only $9 a dose.

However, it isn’t only the poor picking this poison. Remember Cory Monteith from Glee? He died about three years ago from a heroin overdose, horrifying fans across the world. He just didn’t seem like the type.

The truth is, “the type” is everyone. Drugs don’t discriminate. For the wealthy, it is easier to stay on the drugs without being noticed. This is because the malnutrition associated with heroin addicts isn’t from the drug itself. It is from the lifestyle that goes with it, and a poor addict will choose drugs over food.

What can you do about this problem now?

As fellow blogger Patricia Byrne writes: “Stop the silence.”

When you notice symptoms, start the conversation. Don’t let the people around you suffer just because it might be embarrassing or a hard thing to confront.

Saving lives begins with you.

Further Reading:

Learn about who is using heroin in this USNews article.