The Heroin Epidemic

The recent death of Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman is a tragic reminder of the devastation that comes with drug addiction.  While his life ended prematurely and far too soon, his shocking and sudden passing draws a renewed focus to the problem of overdosing and drug addiction in America.  Heroin abuse, which is the drug that is speculated to be the cause of death in Philip Seymour Hoffman, has rapidly risen in the past few years.  From 2007- 2012, the number of individuals who have used heroin has increased by 80% [1].  In the past decade (from 2000-2010), the number of individuals who have died from overdose on heroin has increased by 55% [2].  These startling statistics do in fact raise an alarm to the issue of heroin abuse.

With the number of people using heroin reaching epidemic levels across America, the face of drug addiction is changing.  Addiction impacts individuals across the lifespan, affecting people no matter their race, gender, socioeconomic status, or age.  In speculating as to why heroin abuse has increased so rapidly, the nature of this drug comes under scrutiny.  It is thought by many researchers and drug abuse experts that the addictive nature of this powerful narcotic drug along with the accessibility of it are great contributing factors to the increase of its use in the past decade.

While in the past, addiction to prescription painkillers, such as the opiate drug Oxycontin, was the trend more commonly seen; this has changed in recent years.  This can largely be attributed to greater regulation and enforcement of pain medications and pills, making it increasingly more difficult to obtain prescription drugs.  As the number of individuals who abuse prescription painkillers decreased, a coinciding rise in heroin abuse was also observed.  Addicts that may have used prescription medications illicitly to get high likely turned to less-regulated forms of drugs that were easier to acquire.  Heroin, also from the opiate family of drugs, mimics many of the affects of Oxycontin without the need for prescription.  This has created an even more dangerous trend of addiction across our country; addicts are turning to a form of drug that is highly addictive and unregulated on the black market.  Batches of heroin obtained from unknown sources do not have to comply with any standards or regulations.  Unlike prescription drugs, there are many unidentified substances that come with compounds of heroin, making it even more dangerous for the addict, who does not know exactly what is being put into their body.

With addicts trending toward heroin use, the issue of this drug addiction has broken all stereotypes, affecting countless individuals.  Because of the vicious cycle of addiction, people who abuse heroin will likely experience devastating consequences before appropriate help is sought.  Addicts may turn to heroin to “escape” pain they may be experiencing in their life, whether it is physical, mental, or emotional.  The “fixes” that might be received from getting high off a drug like heroin will only last temporarily and do nothing for treating or healing any underlying issues of pain and anguish.  Drug addiction, no matter the substance, is a complicated issue.  Addicts cannot simply “stop” abusing their drug of choice; intricate help is needed to address the deeper rooted issues that are fueling their addiction.  If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction to drugs, you have the opportunity to get the help you need to overcome it.  Reach out today and take the first step towards recovery and freedom.

Blog contributed by Crystal Karges, MS, RD


[1]: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration,

[2]: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),

*Image courtesy of  David Castillo Dominici at