Stop Calling it a Heroin Epidemic. It’s Actually an Addiction Epidemic

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addiction epidemicIt would be impossible for me to recall just how many times I have read about and written about heroin. Heroin and other opiate addiction is now claiming more lives in many communities than violent crime and car crashes. Because of this, America’s law enforcement officials gathered last Wednesday to discuss the increasing and devastating toll the drug has taken on, well, all of us. 

From Vermont, and New York to Philly and Knoxville, all across the United States, local and federal officials are saying there has been a surge, not only in heroin’s availability but also into deadly consequences. It is cheaper than prescription opioids making it attractive to those trying to overcome an obsession to use. It is the perfect solution for someone that is suffering from a disease they have no idea they are suffering from. 

And the numbers prove it. 

In NYC the 730 drug overdose fatalities in 2012, with half of those estimated to be related to heroin and prescription opiates–were nearly double the number of homicides. 

Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch said overdose deaths, driven by the same combination of heroin and opiate abuse, outnumbered homicides last year–52 to 19. 

And separately, a yet to be released National Drug Threat Assessment rate heroin as the second-greatest drug risk after the abuse of methamphetamines. 

Between 2009 and 2013, according to the assessment produced by the government’s National Drug Intelligence Center, heroin seizures increased by 87%. The average size of the seizures, also increased by 81% during the same time. 

“The consciousness of the nation has not really focused on the problem,” Attorney General Eric Holder told the conference of more than 200 officials organized by the Police Executive Research Forum, a DC based think tank. 

Time to Switch Focus–The Addiction Epidemic Not the Heroin Epidemic

Or maybe it was that we have been focusing on the wrong problem. We have been focusing on the issue, heroin use—the symptom. But underneath all of that is a deadly disease. It isn’t the heroin that is as much of an issue as it is the disease of addiction. And it isn’t the heroin use that is going unnoticed, it is the reason behind why so many people are using the drug that has.

Addiction, as a disease, has for too long gone ignored, laughed at, or denied. Addiction is beneath the heroin use. Addiction is what drives many to use any substance they can find straight into the gates of hell and then in some cases into the hands of death. (If it wasn’t heroin it would be something else.)

It is obvious that the focus is on arrests and the substance, not the individuals and their disease. That is why there is so much press about the heroin seizures/arrests/heroin itself. You never see the headlines read that an individual died from this disease, no they always say that they died from heroin. But the truth is, if they died from heroin, they died from their disease. The drug use and drinking is merely a symptom. And right now, it is a symptom of a nationwide problem.

It not only is time to start paying attention, but it is time to start paying attention to the right part of this ADDICTION EPIDEMIC. And that’s what it needs to be called, because that is what it is, an addiction epidemic. It is a disease epidemic. And heroin is only a glaring sign of it. All the news about heroin is merely the arrow pointing towards what is really going on.

So the arrests and seizures of the substance aren’t solving anything and unless police are going to start sending people to treatment, this issue isn’t going to get any better. Taking the heroin off the streets isn’t going to decrease the amount of people who are suffering in active addiction. They are still going to demand relief, and there is always going to be someone, somehow, some way to supply that relief. It was prescription narcotics, now it’s heroin. 

Repeating the Past

We tried to solve the problem by cracking down pill mills, and then disease of addiction found heroin. Now we have a massive heroin issue. Once again just another pulsing and bleeding sore and sign on the nation’s body—that so many are suffering from addiction. The drug of choice right now and the use is a symptom of the disease of addiction. Cracking down on the heroin? It’s healing the sore but it isn’t helping the nation recover from addiction and as long as we keep treating the heroin problem, we will never actually find a solution, we will never actually recover from drug use–from the illness behind all of this. And we might never do it. 

There is a solution to addiction. If only we could focus on the fact that addiction is what is behind this, not heroin, and begin to treat the right aspects of it; to help addict’s overcome their disease instead of just their heroin use. If you help an addict recover from their disease, they don’t have to use any substance, including heroin. They don’t even need you to take it off the streets.

All the news, media, and sites (including ourselves) have been/are talking about the growing heroin threat. It’s not though. It’s the ever steady and more noticeable now, disease of addiction that has been around since humans realized that substances could offer relief to a discontentedness within themselves. And it isn’t a threat. It is real. And it is killing people.

But if we helped individuals to solve that need for relief. If we offered them a solution to their addiction. There would be no need for heroin. 

Until then, the Addiction Epidemic will continue on, and on, and on. And with every year, and every crackdown we will see all sorts of different symptoms of it–who knows? The next “threat” could be meth for all we know. One things for certain, as long as addiction keeps going untreated and unnoticed, there will be a new drug problem every day, every week, every month, and every year.