Illegal drugs of all kinds are compelling to many teens, providing a way to party, experiment, and break free of parental restrictions. Different substance use trends come and go, from rave drugs in the 1990s and early 2000s to a rise in prescription drugs in the 2010s. However, one extremely dangerous and highly addictive drug has made a surging comeback: heroin.
This deadly substance is an opioid featuring a morphine compound that is often injected directly into the veins, but can also be smoked or snorted. Historically, heroin has been most popular among serious drug users, but today, heroin is being used by teens and adults from all walks of life. As of 2012, heroin abuse among first-time users is up 60% across the United States, from under 90,000 users a year to 156,000.
With this increase in use also comes an increase in overdoses. Areas around the country are experiencing a rise in teen overdose rates, creating a near-epidemic in many areas, both rural and urban. As more teens are trying, abusing, and overdosing on heroin every day, it's never been more important for parents to learn the signs, symptoms, and treatments.
What Is Heroin?
Heroin is a potent opioid drug derived from the seed pod of the opium poppy plant. Chemically, it is related to morphine and is also known by the name diamorphine. When ingested, injected, snorted, or smoked, heroin provides a euphoric high that begins right away and lasts for several hours.
Despite the rise in heroin use in recent years, heroin is nothing new; opium derivatives have been used for centuries in different formats, and heroin as it is commonly used today dates back to the late 1800s. However, modern heroin is different in form and function that it was even several decades ago. Experts theorize that the use of fentanyl in many Mexican-produced heroin batches is contributing to the increase in drug-related deaths.
Fentanyl, a substance that can be 100 times more powerful than morphine and 30 to 50 times more potent than heroin itself, is extremely toxic. When mixed with heroin, it poses risks beyond a standard dose, increasing the odds of unpleasant side effects. Unfortunately, many teens are inadvertently using fentanyl-laced heroin and taking too much, leading to overdose symptoms like respiratory arrest, coma, or death.
Teen Heroin Use
Heroin has long been a popular drug, but has historically been less common among teens than more socially accepted drugs like marijuana, accessible options like prescription pain killers, and party drugs like ecstasy and LSD. However, as trends over the last decade indicate, this is starting to change. Across the country, teens and adults are using heroin with increasing frequency, and with the addition of increased fentanyl, heroin is now more dangerous than ever.
Due to the price and accessibility, teen opiate users are flocking to heroin, leading to a distinct rise in addiction and fatal overdose. Vermont, for example, has seen a 770% increase in use since 2000, and over 45% of all fatal overdoses in Ohio are due to heroin. This same trend is evident in cities like St. Louis, San Diego, and Chicago, in addition to many others.
Doctors see links between prescription medication addiction and heroin, due to the similarities in function. In some cases, teens begin experimenting using pain killers, like Vicodin or Hydrocodone. However, these pills can be very expensive, making it a challenge to continue getting high. Heroin is much cheaper on the street, with single doses available for $15 to $20. With such a low price point, heroin is relatively easy for teens to acquire, and should their supply of prescription medication be cut off, they may feel it is a necessary alternative.
Talking to Your Teen About Heroin
If you suspect heroin use in your teen, the time to act is now. Some parents may see their teen’s behavior as normal adolescent rule-breaking, but due to the nature of heroin, a few seemingly-harmless doses can lead to addiction, injury, or death. Even if your teen has never seemed interested in drugs before, one time is all it takes.
Sending your teen a message about heroin abuse is a serious matter, find a quiet time to sit down with your teen, preferably away from other family members or distractions. How you approach your teen will depend on your relationship and preferred communication methods, but consider starting with local anecdotes or news stories to create a relatable connection. Discuss the dangers of heroin, including the increased risk of overdose and the presence of fentanyl in much of the heroin available in the United States. If your teen chooses to open up to you about personal use or use within his friend circle, try to stay calm and non-judgmental.
Getting Help for Heroin
If you suspect heroin use in your teen, getting help is extremely important. Due to the highly addictive nature and the threat of overdose, taking action quickly can be your best chance to help your teen get the help he needs. Heroin is very hard to quit without help, making rehabilitation absolutely essential.
With help from a licensed inpatient rehab center, your teen can overcome heroin addiction, detoxing in a safe and supportive environment. Rehab facilities offer physician and therapist support, helping teams to cease use naturally or with help from prescription medications like methadone or naltrexone.
If your teen is using heroin or is showing signs of heroin abuse, it's time to seek help. Contact Teen Treatment Center today at (844)319-5239 to speak to a trained intake counselor and explore what our facility has to offer. All consultations are confidential.