There is a national heroin epidemic that has not spared Northern California.
Heroin addiction can begin in a few different ways. It can be introduced by friends as something to smoke or snort or a pill to take. Smoking or snorting heroin can, to the unknowing, seem to be a “safe” way to get high. It is not. The path to addiction of an opiate can begin by smoking the drug or snorting the drug. Smoking a drug is the quickest route to the brain. Addiction can happen quickly when someone is using an opiate or opioid; the route of use does not lessen the possibility of addiction.
Another way addiction to opiates can begin is through the use of pain medications that are either prescribed or bought on the street. Our youth are often beginning their heroin addiction through the procurement of pain medications not prescribed to them, but sold on the street, in schools and at social gatherings.
In talking with the young adults who have gone through the TARP program to stop the use of heroin, it is clear that many began their journey into addiction by trying prescription opioids such as oxycontin, codeine, vicodin, or methadone. Many began this type of drug use as teenagers. We are seeing more and more young adults ages 20 to 26 with a opiate/opioid addiction come through the TARP program.
They begin using occasionally, socially with friends. Because the drugs are prescribed, (even though it is not to them), they feel a false sense of safety. How can something prescribed to my aunt, my mother, or father be dangerous? As use becomes more regular, an addiction develops. Now when the drug is not available, the individual begins to experience withdrawal symptoms similar to a very bad flu—body aches, chills, bone pain, sneezing, runny nose, and cramps. Buying opioids can be expensive; in some cases, the price is up to $65.00 per pill. Heroin costs much less, at $5-$10. And so, the switch from pills to heroin is often the only affordable alternative for someone who has become addicted to opiates or opioids.
What can you do? First speak with your family and see if anyone needs help. Next contact TARP at 1-800- 522-8277. We are here to help.