The Heroin Pandemic: Help on the Horizon
Brad Lamm, CIP
A friend relapsed on heroin last week. A good person with a bum habit. He was clean for a little more than ninety days when the tug of the drug won, so his sober time went up in smoke; the high short-lived as the shame of relapse hung around to simmer.
Smoke it. Sniff it. Shoot it. Those are the most common ways the heroin pandemic occurs across our amazing nation and continues to play out on a daily basis. Every day on average, two sweet souls stop swimming in life as a result of heroin’s effect of making the high so low, that the heart just stops beating and the user dies.
Last week’s New York Times reminisced on Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin’s State of the State address from 2014. Shumlin devoted the entire speech to the scourge of heroin abuse and subsequent overdose deaths. This is a harsh reality that the rest of the nation is feeling in a big way.
Heroin deaths increased sharply in many states, according to a report of death certificate data from 28 states published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late last year. So why the spike in heroin deaths? 3 out of 4 users began to abuse the drug after their prescription drug habit either got too expensive or was too cumbersome to attain. Unlike prescription opioids, heroin, also an opioid, costs less than a prescription and is more readily available.
In response to the scary stats, Governor Shumlin implemented policy based on the philosophical shift of the last few years. Namely, that addiction is a disease and therefore a public health issue. To that end, he increased budgets for dispensaries of methadone and buprenorphine, enacted the good Samaritan law, which gives immunity to people who call an ambulance if someone has overdosed and put in place pilot projects to send addicts involved in minor crimes to treatment centers instead of jail.
If the upward trend of heroin use continues, other states would do well to follow Shumlin’s lead.