Opioids or Heroin?  Depends on Your Age…

Opioids or Heroin?  Depends on Your Age…

Photo credit wstryder via Foter.com CC BY

If it’s possible – the opioid addiction crisis is morphing by generation and getting more deadly.

Researchers at the University of Maryland now report that older consumers are overdosing on prescription opioids at alarming rates while younger Americans are dying disproportionately from overdosing on heroin.

Sadly – in both cases the root cause is physician over-reliance on opioids for pain management.

Looking at the overdose and emergency room data from across the U.S., researchers have discovered that this generational shift in drug use began in 2007 and has accelerated since that time.

The study’s lead author, Jay Unick, feels the shift in drug of choice is tied to two reasons:

·       Older patients have easier access to opioid painkilling drugs due to age and/or disability

·       The state and federal crackdown on opioid prescriptions is driving younger users to a readily available and inexpensive alternative – heroin.

The data also reveals where heroin use is most concentrated.  Turns out that the Northeast and Midwest are far and away the most challenged regions in the country – with problems in the West now accelerating.  Only the South region is showing a flattening out in the rate of heroin overdose.

Are there any hopeful signs?

Yes.  It appears that while the rate of heroin (and fentanyl – heroin’s dangerous close cousin) overdoses are rising sharply, the rate of emergency room admissions for prescription opioid overdoses has leveled off and may be declining.

Unick worries that the government’s response of clamping down on opioid prescriptions will not solve the problem. “We’re going to get stuck if we don’t increase access to treatment,” he said. “A doctor can prescribe you hydrocodone but can’t prescribe [treatment] drugs like naloxone because of stigma. We can prescribe the drugs that kill you but not the drugs that save you.”

Ultimately, access to effective treatment options may be the most valuable tool in this public health crisis.  Now we have to hope that the states and the federal government continue to provide support for these services.

If you or someone you love is addicted to heroin or other opioid drugs, programs like Aware Recovery Care can make a big difference.  Aware has developed research tested treatment protocols that are substantially increasing rates of recovery for those addicted to drugs and/or alcohol.  If you or someone you love is in trouble – learn more about the work Aware Recovery Care is doing right now.  You can learn more by contacting www.awarerecoverycare.com.  Recovery specialists are ready to start supporting your recovery today.

 Photo credit: wstryder via Foter.com / CC BY