America may have a new drug epidemic, one more dangerous and wide-sweeping than any that have come before. The recent tragic deaths of actors Philip Seymour Hoffman and Cory Monteith from heroin overdoses has shined a spotlight on the drug’s increasing popularity and prevalence throughout the nation.
As a nation, the United States has long struggled with another cheap, popular narcotic: methamphetamine. But now, experts say, heroin is beginning to replace meth, as well as more expensive prescription painkillers, in rural and suburban settings. Heroin users are starting their habit at a younger age.
What may be contributing to this trend is the availability and subsequent abuse of prescription opiates like Vicodin and Oxycontin. Needing only a doctor’s prescription to obtain these drugs, Americans in many states find these types of narcotics to be the easiest, if not the cheapest, forms of recreational drugs to obtain. Particularly susceptible to this type of abuse are adolescents and young adults, who may begin their drug habit by pilfering from parents’ medicine cabinets.
The National Institute of Drug Abuse says 4.2 million Americans have tried heroin at least once during their lives, and 23% of individuals who use heroin become dependent. Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs available, and it is also one of the easiest to overdose on.
Now that it is spreading across the country, affecting Americans young and old, it seems that our nation may have a new enemy, one that has risen again and is now killing us from within.
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