As a recovering addict/alcoholic it is a source of irritation when politicos politicize “the scourge of illegal drugs.” A fusion of ignorance and hypocrisy generally results in a spectacularly abject failure like America’s War on Drugs. At least once a year I have to vent and my (toned down) rant comes early this year.
The source of my irritation is January 19’s Ascension Parish Council meeting where the parish’s Mental Health Director appeared to commemorate “National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week.” Suzanne Hamilton offered up a few unscientific poll numbers (mostly concerning alcohol abuse) from Ascension public school students and posed for the obligatory photo op with Parish President Kenny Matassa.
That’s when Councilman Randy Clouatre interjected his concern over a resurgence of heroin use:
“It’s really bad right now. It’s a really bad addiction.”
He provided the intro to Matassa’s sound byte:
“Before Christmas I went to a meeting at St. Elizabeth’s on heroin (I resist the temptation to insert joke here due to the seriousness of the topic). And it was the Sheriff’s Office and the judges put the meeting on. And, basically, Dr. Trevino, who is the specialist on that, the emergency room and trauma, and drugs and all that; he basically said, ‘you know, we can try to save these kids but the adults, he’s not dealing with.
We never had a second meeting yet to try and take a grip on things. The Sheriff’s Office is at the table and the judges are too. Hopefully we can come up with something.”
Heroin addiction, in your writer’s vast experience (and to borrow Clouatre’s phrasing), is a bad addiction. On May 3, 2017 I will have been clean for 11 years but the cravings only dissipated a few years ago. Heroin withdrawal in my early 20’s was the most difficult thing I’ve ever endured and, still, I went back at it a decade later.
It cannot be cured by arrest and/or incarceration or threat of same, at least in this junkie’s experience. Consequences were never factored into the equation when I needed my fix.
If anything of value is to come from this proposed round table, start with the following.
According to National Institute on Drug Abuse:
“Prescription opioid pain medications such as Oxycontin and Vicodin can have effects similar to heroin when taken in doses or in ways other than prescribed, and they are currently among the most commonly abused drugs in the United States. Research now suggests that abuse of these drugs may open the door to heroin abuse.
Nearly half of young people who inject heroin surveyed in three recent studies reported abusing prescription opioids before starting to use heroin. Some individuals reported taking up heroin because it is cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription opioids.
Many of these young people also report that crushing prescription opioid pills to snort or inject the powder provided their initiation into these methods of drug administration.”
- Cicero TJ, Ellis MS, Surratt HL, Kurtz SP. The changing face of heroin use in the United States: a retrospective analysis of the past 50 years. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71(7):821-826.
Recent NIDA statistics “show that 1 out of 15 people who take prescription painkillers for recreational use will try heroin within 10 years. And this problem is growing – in 2004, 1.4 million people abused or were dependent on pain medications and 5 percent used heroin. By 2010, 1.9 million people abused or were dependent on pain medications and 14% used heroin.”
“When it enters the brain, heroin is converted back into morphine, which binds to molecules on cells known as opioid receptors. These receptors are located in many areas of the brain (and in the body), especially those involved in the perception of pain and in reward.”
“Heroin users are 3 times more likely to be addicted than users of prescription painkillers (54% vs. 14%). Relative to the high cost of prescription painkillers on the street, heroin is cheap – and this contributes to it’s increasing popularity among addicts.”
That is according to Drugs.com, an online pharmaceutical encyclopedia which provides drug information for consumers and healthcare professionals primarily in the USA.
“Addiction starts with abuse. Abuse of prescription narcotic painkillers sits at the heart of the epidemic. Forty-five people die every day from opioid prescription painkillers – more deaths than heroin and cocaine overdoses combined.
But it’s not all patient driven: research from 2016 reveals that when U.S. doctors give their patients narcotic painkillers, 99 percent of them hand out prescriptions that exceed the federally recommended three-day dosage limit.”
Serious about keeping the young people off heroin? Start by reining in those doctors who are paid by pharmaceutical companies to dispense all those billions upon billions of opioid painkillers.
Legalize marijuana, at least allow its ready availability for medicinal purposes.