We have recently been bombarded with information and media covering the heroin epidemic across the nation. While this may seem like some kind of false panic the media is notorious for, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that heroin deaths doubled from 2010 to 2012 and that U.S. heroin-related overdose deaths increased 39 percent in 2013. In New York City, there are reported more heroin deaths than there are homicides.
It’s not just illicit heroin abuse which is a problem, but synthetic opiates as well, all of which are derivatives of morphine. It’s been reported that deaths from prescription painkillers quadrupled from 1999 to 2010, and that in 2013, nearly 2 million Americans either abused or were dependent on prescription opioids. At the New Hampshire Heroin Summit, Sandi Coyle, of Exeter said, “If we lost people at the rate we’re losing folks today to any other health-related issue, we’d probably be in a state of emergency.”
Communities are beginning to take matters into their own hands and forward the effort to stop the heroin epidemic in its tracks. Kentucky has been leading the way, passing legislation to allow local health departments to set up needle exchanges and increasing the number of people who can carry naloxone, the drug that paramedics use to save a person suffering an opioid overdose. Also addicts in Kentucky who survive an overdose will not have to face being charged with a crime after being revived, instead being connected to treatment services and community mental health workers.
States such as New York, California, Illinois, New Mexico and Washington have also passed laws to provide legal protections for prescribers who work with programs providing naloxone to individuals who are able to take a class on administration of the lifesaving drug. These efforts to promote restorative measures for addicts are becoming a nationwide call for action, to end the heroin epidemic through proactive treatment and education.