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Drug Overdose Epidemic in America

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Every 25 seconds someone is arrested for drug related activities in America. According to an FBI crime report, police make more arrests every year for drug abuse violations than for any other reported crime.

Surpassing the number of both violent crimes and property offenses, David White, a Texas criminal defense lawyer reports that over 1 million people were incarcerated in 2015 for drug possession and abuse. Although drug activity continues to remain the single most common cause for arrest, the numbers have actually been dropping over the last decade. However, illicit drug abuse is showing no signs of slowing down.

Drug Users in America

In 2013, 2.8 million Americans became ‘new’ drug users which is equivalent to almost 7,800 people per day experimenting with drugs for the first time. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), reports that the highest percentage of first time drug users are among 18-20 year olds with more than half of users beginning with Marijuana, but the study does not investigate alcohol use in the conclusions made.

The U.S. has officials focused its attention on opioid overdose. With 47,000 reports of drug induced fatalities in 2014, 61 percent of these were driven by opioids – originally prescription painkillers that have evolved into heroin. The drug has taken icons such as Elvis Presley, Prince, and Chris Farley. While sending people in and out of the legal system and to rehab facilities, it has quickly destroyed the lives of thousands. As fatality rates from excessive drug use have more than doubled since 2000, it’s safe to say that America is suffering a deep rooted drug crisis.

The police of East Liverpool, Ohio, recently took it upon themselves to show the non drug using public just how serious the side effects of heroin are. In September of 2016, the city released a graphic photo to Facebook showing a couple overdosing on what they believe to be heroin. The photos show the two incapacitated in the front seat of an SUV while a 4-year-old child sat trapped in the back.

The police responded to the backlash of the photos commenting, We are well aware that some may be offended by these images and for that we are truly sorry, but it is time that the non drug using public sees what we are now dealing with on a daily basis. The poison known as heroin has taken a strong grip on many communities not just ours…”

The Effects of Heroin

Heroin can be used in many different forms – it can be injection, inhaled, snorted and smoked. All four methods deliver the drug to the brain at a rapid rate, contributing to the high risk for addiction.

Shortly after the drug enters the brain, enzymes convert heroin into morphine while simultaneously binding it to opioid receptors. The binding of the two then triggers an intense sensation of both pain relief and euphoria – an intense feeling that the body cannot produce on its own.

Also intensified when heroin hits the brain is dopamine production, an otherwise natural response to rewards such as eating food. Heroin is estimated to produce an amount 10 times the normal level.

Heroin abusers risk losing their long-term memory, their ability to make decisions, as well as the ability to control one’s own social behavior. Due to the high potential for abuse and addiction, heroin is considered to be among the most dangerous drugs.

James Fata, a recovering addict comments to the Guardian, Id like to say its getting better because I see at least things are being brought to the surface and theres an advocacy movement, but on a numbers level, its getting worse. On the amount of deaths I see, its getting worse. The amount of heroin use Im seeing, its getting worse.

Experts warn that Fata is correct, the overdose epidemic in America hasn’t peaked yet. The most critical component to prevent the abuse of painkillers and illegal drugs is by really educating our youth on the dangers of the addiction. The NIDA has plans to advance awareness, prevention, and treatment in primary care practices, including the diagnosis of prescription drug abuse. To learn more about drug addiction and how you can help visit heroin.net.

Falynne Knight was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona where she graduated from Arizona State University in 2015 with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication.

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