Chasing the High—A Look at Teens & Heroin
How’s this for good news? There’s been an eleven percent
decline in use of drugs, an eighteen percent decline in tobacco use and a six
percent decline in alcohol use over the past few years. With statistics like
these, you’d think we were on our way to making that “drug free
America” they so earnestly strive for in ad campaigns. Why then, are
we still seeing teens fall by the wayside abusing drugs, particularly heroin
and painkillers? Unfortunately, though the statistics look promising in writing,
there is still far too much substance abuse going on among young people.
At a recent conference held at cable television network, Home
Box Office (HBO), Inc., a group of panelists, including two recovering drug
addicted teens, spoke to a room of invited observers, hungry for answers.
Herbert D. Kleber, M.D., a panelist
and Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Division on Substance Abuse,
College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, explained, “Heroin is the second most
addictive drug known to man, tobacco being the most addictive. One out of three
people who try tobacco will become addicted. One out of four people who try
heroin will become addicted,” There is a feeling associated with heroin
that Kleber described as “overwhelming the body so the body says, ‘Do
One hundred years old, heroin
was invented by the Bayer Pharmaceutical Company initially to be used as
a cough medicine/pain killer. It was soon realized just how addictive this
new drug was.
“The body decreases its own endorphins,” Kleber noted
in explaining about the physical addiction of heroin. “If you continue
to use heroin, you will constantly need external amounts of endorphins to keep
you from becoming depressed. Therefore, through continuously increasing the
dose, once intake of the drug has stopped, severe withdrawal begins.” Withdrawal
includes a wide range of physical ailments from stomach cramping and vomiting
to cold sweats, and chronic depression.
The teens, who wished to remain anonymous,
had similar stories as to how they found themselves hopelessly addicted to
heroin. “I started
snorting, then progressed to shooting,” commented Kathleen who began
drinking and smoking marijuana when she was eleven, “I was just trying
to get as high as I could.” David, who started drinking and smoking marijuana
at the age of thirteen, added, “From about thirteen to fifteen I was
snorting heroin. Then at fifteen I started shooting it. Where I live there’s
not much to do. The kids I hung out with just got high. We’d sit in a
house and get high. We’d be drinking and smoking weed and it just got
boring so we started doing heroin.”
Not everyone is as lucky as Kathleen
and David, who lived to tell about their drug experience. “Every bag of heroin is Russian roulette,” commented
Kleber. A bag, which goes for around ten dollars, can be cut with a variety
of different dangerous chemicals. “The sale of heroin evolved from a
marketing scheme,” explained panelist Derek Maltz, Associate Special
Agent in Charge, New York Division of Drug Enforcement Administration. “It’s
Ginger and Larry Kate, who lost their
son Ian to heroin, added a few words from the audience, urging parents to
open their eyes to their children’s
drug abuse, “Parents don’t want to believe that their kids are
using drugs because they think it’s a reflection on their parenting.
Ian only used drugs for five months. He didn’t have a second chance.”
There are 750,000 to 1 million heroin addicts in the United States.
Twice as many try heroin each year.
“We want to do everything to prevent
heroin use but there is treatment that works,” urged Kleber, “It’s
not all doom and gloom—not a death sentence.”#
For more information or questions
you may have about your child’s
drug use, visit www.theantidrug.com.
Teachers visit www.teachersguide.org.
To find treatment near you visit www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov.