By Steve Keller
Our staff is acutely impacted by this current and deteriorating scourge in our society. One cannot avoid being saddened and moved by ubiquitous reports in the media of the suffering of addicts as well as their loved ones.
The current opiate addiction epidemic has been fueled by a paradigm shift in the way people initially become addicted. Yes, heroin addiction still results from young people experimenting with “gateway drugs” which eventually progress to trying heroin. However, in recent years, a high percentage of people get addicted to heroin after having become dependent on prescription opiate medications. These people come from all walks of life, regardless of race, gender, age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic circumstances. They typically sustain a benign acute injury, such as a toothache, sprained ankle, or chronic pain that necessitates a prescription of oxycodone, for example. It often doesn’t take long for dependency on such medications, which have been overprescribed by doctors. Eventually, the patient has difficulty obtaining the medications, or cannot afford to sustain their use, typically due to expensive insurance co-pays, etc. This often leads to purchasing the meds online or illegally, which also becomes expensive and problematic. Tragically, the patient turns to heroin which is much cheaper, stronger, longer-lasting, and accessible.