The American opioid epidemic continues to ravage the nation, making no exceptions. According to annual reports conducted by the CDC, Heroin-related deaths have surged, killing over 50,000 people in 2015 alone. No one is immune to the disastrous effects of the drug, not even addiction counselors themselves.
In a disturbing demonstration of the strength of the drug epidemic, two Philadelphia area drug counselors were found dead in a halfway house just last week. The two counselors suffered from fatal drug overdoses after shooting up a lethal combination of heroin and fentanyl. The pair, which were not immediately identified, were found on the afternoon of May 21st, unresponsive in their rooms at the Freedom Ridge Recovery Lodge. They were surrounded by needles and empty baggies. Residents of the halfway house found their bodies, as they were trying to get their schedule and medications for the upcoming week. One resident attempted to revive a counselor with the anti-overdose drug Narcan, but was unable to do so.
One of the counselors resided in the West Brandywine Township sober home’s basement, while the other counselor lived on a floor upstairs. The victims were ages 24 and 33, this is the only identifying information the authorities have released. Both victims were pronounced dead at the scene. The owners of the small hallway house, which only treats six men at a time, were not in the state at the time of the alarming discovery. They were notified to get back to the house immediately.
The initial toxicology tests showed a combination of heroin and fentanyl in the victims systems, and authorities have begun to track down the source of the deadly mixture. “Anybody who sees baggies in the area with the Superman or Danger logo must be warned away to stay away from those drugs,” Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan said in a statement. “They appear to be heroin laced with fentanyl and are likely to kill anybody who uses them. “
District Attorney Hogan emphasized this tragedy as one of the latest examples of the growing heroin epidemic:
This pair of overdose deaths comes on the heels of more Philadelphia-area tragedy in regards to the recovery community. Not even a week prior, both the co-founder of a drug treatment program and a safe injection advocate both suffered from drug abuse-related deaths.
As stated earlier, no one is immune to the tragic effects of heroin use. The drug impacts people from all walks of life equally. Yet, one demographic in particular has taken a significant beating from the substance.
An analysis of the changing face of heroin use in the United States has found that prior to the 1980s, both whites and nonwhites were represented equally people who tried heroin for the first time. This has since changed in the present day, as heroin abuse has expanded across the nation. In the past decade, close to 90 percent of first-time heroin users are white- an increasing number are from either middle-class or wealthy families.
A recent CDC report revealed, “Significant increases in heroin use were found in groups with historically low rates of heroin use, including women and people with private insurance and higher incomes. The gaps between men and women, low and higher incomes, and people with Medicaid and private insurance have narrowed in the past decade.”
Over the past decade heroin use has increased five-fold, while heroin dependence has more than tripled, according to research conducted by Columbia University’s School of Public Health. Many addiction specialists attribute these staggering statistics to the negligent use of prescription opioid painkillers. These are narcotics such as OxyContin, Vicodin, and Percocet.
“A nation awash with prescription opioids has led to a large increase in addiction, overdose deaths and transition to heroin-fentanyl (a powerful synthetic opioid),” stated Bertha Madras, a professor of psychobiology at Harvard Medical School. She published an editorial that corresponded to the study.
According to reports conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people who have a dependency on prescription painkillers are approximately 40 times more likely to form a heroin dependency. This same study reported that nearly half of the people who used the drug between 2011 and 2013 were also addicted to prescription opioids. Three out of four heroin addicts began with the abuse of prescription medications. This growing body of evidence only helps to solidify the impact prescription opioids have on the population as a whole.
Both short and long term heroin abuse can have devastating effects. Some users are fortunate enough to evade or survive an overdose. This is not to say they are insusceptible to the list of health problems associated with the drug. Some of the numerous health issues linked to heroin use include gastrointestinal problems, collapsed veins, cardiac infections, kidney and liver disease, and various diseases contracted through the sharing of needles- one of which being HIV.
It is imperative heroin addicts seek quality addiction recovery treatment at the earliest possible chance. Many accredited clinical rehabilitation facilities offer a variety of personalized programs from medically assisted detoxification, to rehabilitation therapy and aftercare planning. Qualified addiction professionals understand that recovery is a complex process that requires unique individualized care.
No one is immune to a heroin overdose, not even addiction counselors themselves. Do not be afraid or ashamed to ask for help, even if you have received help in the past. Contact an admissions counselor today by calling 855-638-9268, and finally begin taking steps towards a happier, healthier you.