The dope diaries: America’s downward spiral

Caitlin Stallings
Guest Contributor

Heroin first made its peak in 1898 and still is growing in popularity in our country. According to NBC Nightly News, heroin abuse in America has nearly doubled between 2007 and 2012. Many news organizations, including NBC Nightly News and BBC News, say one of the reasons for this horrific statistic may be the increased use of prescription drugs, which is considered the gateway to heroin.

America can no longer put the heroin epidemic on the back burner. State legislatures and Congress have waited far too long to respond to what some are calling a full-blown health crisis. Since our country failed at preventing the massive spread of heroin, we need solutions and we need them immediately.

Since heroin is usually cheaper, more available and easier to use than other drugs, it is the ideal substance for most addicts. Pill-poppers are most likely to run the risk of transforming into junkies because of heroin’s link with prescription drug abuse.

Besides the societal costs such as a rise in drug violence and the destruction of the family, one of the worst parts of the heroin epidemic is that its victims are being killed off one by one with no mercy. An accidental overdose of a concoction of drugs including heroin took the life of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman on February 2.

Shortly after, the Richmond community was hit hard with a tragedy of their own. David Brockie, the frontman for the heavy metal band Gwar, was found dead on his couch in his Richmond home on March 23. Police officials found evidence of heroin on the scene, but a cause of death had not been determined until recently. Brockie’s death was revealed to be a heroin overdose according to his autopsy. Although drug abuse is a problem in society, medical professionals say entertainers are far more susceptible because of the long hours on the road and the intense demands of performing.

113 Americans daily die from drug overdoses, which are now the leading cause of accidnetal death in America. Between 300,000 and 500,000 heroin addicts reside in the United States alone. These statistics merely serve as reminders that the heroin epidemic will only get worse before it gets better.

The heroin crisis is sweeping the nation faster than ever before, and we are now seeing celebrities and even suburban communities struggle with addiction.

Since I grew up in the small, rural town of Mechanicsville, Virginia I witnessed the immediate and long-term effects of heroin on a tight-knit community. Roughly around the ages of 16 to 20 years, students from the high school I attended began to start using heroin recreationally after a cheap heroin knockoff drug called Krokodil made its rounds to a select few in the area. Once most of the users found out about Krokodil’s flesh-eating effects — literally rotting the skin from the inside out — they moved on to the “real deal,” heroin.

I watched so many people much younger than me with their whole lives ahead of them go in and out of rehabilitation facilities and jail cells battling with (and sometimes losing to) this powerful drug. I saw families and friendships crumble and break beyond repair. Once the nationwide heroin epidemic struck my hometown, my eyes were opened up to the seriousness of this issue our country is forced to face. To truly overcome this major obstacle, heroin can no longer be seen as an inner city problem or one affecting a small group of people. No one is immune; the effects of heroin have the ability to reach far more than it already has.


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