Addiction can begin with a doctor's visit. Say a patient has a bad cough or a heart attack or pain from a car accident. The doctors may shoot up the patient with morphine or prescribe narcotics. But what happens when the patient is all better? Do they give up drugs that induce euphoria?
Sometimes, they turn to heroin.
According to the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators, in 2007, one illegally acquired, 80 mg tablet of Oxycontin can cost more than $50. A mere 4 mg tablet of hydromorphone can cost up to $60.
So who would spend that much money for a high when there’s heroin, the readily available opioid that costs a fraction of the price for similar results?
Some believe that they can avoid addiction to heroin, but try it a few times just to reduce withdrawal symptoms or reduce stress. This is a futile mindset. The National Institute on Drug Abuse cites that more than 20% of those who try heroin just once become addicted. Heroin’s extremely addictive properties aid in its demand growth.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse attempts to explain why heroin is so addictive. Users become extremely relaxed, following a rush of euphoria and a feeling of warmth and comfort. On the science side of heroin, the drug is converted into morphine in the brain, and acts to influence a user’s perceptions of rewards and pain. The drug can dull pain, and create a pleasurable mental fogginess that addicts crave.
With heroin’s growing popularity, death rates due to overdose have soared. The Bangor Daily News cites that Maine’s death rate via heroin overdose increased 18% between 2013 and 2014, with 208 deaths in the latter. Nationwide, the number of heroin addicts has even doubled between 2002 and 2013 to more than 500,000 people, according to The Portland Press Herald, with urban youths the most common victims.
What exactly causes one to die from using heroin? Simply enough, their respiratory system fails to regulate itself. In other words, one may fall asleep and never wake up because the body forgets to breathe. That is how relaxing the effects of heroin can be.
Unfortunately, Maine Medical Center has not altered their heroin-addicted patient protocol despite its prevalence. Mrs. Kitty, hospital operator at Maine Med, says that the hospital directs addicts to physicians out of different doctors’ offices, with “no substance abuse center [at Maine Medical Center] yet.”
Following care from a primary treatment center, those who have struggled with addiction may take up residency in extended care programs. The Foundation House, owned and founded by Patrick Babcock, is a temporary home where young adult males can participate in a 12 step therapeutic model, and reintegrate into a sober life with therapeutic and experiential components.
“The experiential component can range anywhere from dog sledding to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, and everything in between,” Babcock says.
With a more regretful note, Babcock commented on heroin’s growth in society. “In the past 25 years, heroin has gone from the conventional lower class urban drug, into the suburbia, and now smack in the middle white upperclass... it covers the whole spectrum of society.”