Heroin Epidemic Among America’s Youth

Woman sitting next to her car

China white, Smack and Dope are a few of the common street names for heroin. Heroin is inexpensive and fairly easy to find these days. Teenagers are prone to peer pressure, rash decisions and experimentation. This combination of factors certainly contributes to the skyrocketing heroin use we see occurring in the US among our adolescents.

We know that almost half of heroin users kicked off their addiction by abusing pain medicine. {1} Pain medicines are easily found in many home medicine cabinets. Kids are naturally curious and may hear about the highs available from meds that they can easily find at their own homes.

All it takes is a quick perusal through the bathroom cabinets for some teenagers to find prescription pain medicines.

The teenage years are often filled with angst and insecurity as our youth struggle to separate from their parents and establish their own identity, find belonging with peers and determine their place in the world.

All of this leads to some highly uncomfortable feelings and makes our kids even more vulnerable to short term “feel good” solutions to escape the difficult issues that teenagers face.

Sadly, drug overdose rates have doubled over the last decade among our youth (ages 12 – 25).{2} We know that heroine use is on the rise across all demographics and that our teenagers can easily become hooked. There are two common paths to follow that can lead to heroin addiction for our kids:

Path one

The teenager may have an injury, surgery or other medical issue that gave them access to personally prescribed pain medication. They may quickly develop a tolerance for the medication, notice it is not as effective as it was initially and begin to increase their intake to get the same effect.

They may then run out and need more. If that is not easily accomplished – they may begin to look for alternative sources of the same high. Heroine may come up as an easy option.

Path two

Father And Teenage Son Having A HugThe teenager experiments with pain medicine by obtaining this from their parent’s medicine cabinet or a friend. They try it, the effect is anything from soothing to euphoric, and they may decide that this is something they want to do regularly.

They then find it hard to secure more pain medication. This can lead to looking for easier to acquire alternatives. They find that buying heroine is less expensive and easier to obtain.

It is not hard to understand how the progression from pain medication abuse to heroin use can occur. There is hope for teenagers who struggle with heroin addiction, however.

Many caring professionals have dedicated their careers to helping kids kick an addiction to heroine and they are found at substance abuse treatment programs specifically geared towards adolescents.

Help can also be found through excellent organizations such as: The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and Partnership for Drug Free Kids.
Our kids are our future. Let’s work together to increase awareness, prevention and treatment in our precious youth.



1. From RX to Heroin. (n.d.). Retrieved February 15, 2016, from http://medicineabuseproject.org/assets/documents/Rx-to-Heroin.pdf
2. Drug Overdose Rates Soaring Among US Youth. (2015, November 19). Retrieved February 15, 2016, from https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/news/fullstory_155812.html

About the author:

Jacquelyn EkernJacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC – Founder & Director

Jacquelyn Ekern founded Addiction Hope in January, 2013, after experiencing years of inquiries for addiction help by visitors to our well regarded sister site, Eating Disorder Hope. Many of the eating disorder sufferers that contact Eating Disorder Hope also had a co-occurring issue of addiction to alcohol, drugs, and process addictions (such as gambling, sex, shopping, etc). Because she believes in holistic recovery that addresses all of the destructive patterns or behaviors engaged in by the individual, it became clear that it would be helpful to also have a site that deals foremost with addiction, for those that suffer from addiction as a primary concern.

Jacquelyn Ekern is a fully licensed therapist and she manages both the Addiction Hope and Eating Disorder Hope organizations and websites.
Jacquelyn has a Bachelor of Science in Human Services degree from The University of Phoenix and a Masters degree in Counseling/Psychology, from Capella University. She is a member of the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA), Academy of Eating Disorders (AED), the Eating Disorders Coalition (EDC) and the International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals (iaedp).

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on March 13, 2016
Published on AddictionHope.com

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.