The numbers are troubling and more horrific than most people think. Heroin overdose death rates nearly tripled in the United States between 2010 and 2013, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. In 2010, the death rate was one for every 100,000 people, but by 2013, the number jumped to 2.7 for every 100,000 people. And it continues to rise.
Why is this happening? There seems to be at least 2 paths to heroine addiction but they all have the same conclusion. But the simple answer is demand. As authorities have begun to regulate prescription pills, the cost goes up on the black market. The average cost of a bag of heroine is $7 a bag in New Jersey (and as low as $5. in some locations). The switch to heroin becomes a simple economic decision that increases the risk of accidental death by overdose.
This is a cycle. Once authorities crack down on one drug, people suffering from addiction find a replacement. “We simply can't arrest our way out of this crisis” said Robert Budsock, president of Integrity House. “Research shows over and over again that the only way to have safer communities and to effectively curb drug crime is to provide addicts with the treatment and support they need to quit and to stay clean long-term”.
Many heroin abusers who check into treatment facilities have begun their addiction with pain pills. (That's because people usually don't think twice about taking pain medication). They may have a legitimate injury and the pills are prescribed by a doctor. However, with any opiate, a physical and psychological dependence quickly develops. When the prescription is eventually cut off, many people are left with a powerful addiction where their brain chemistry changes as a result of continued use of opiates. When the pills run out, many cross the line and walk down the frightening road of opting for the much cheaper and easier-to-get heroin.
Substance abuse treatment facilities understand that addiction is a medical disease with social and psychological complications. A person suffering from addiction needs to know there are qualified counselors who want to help and will not pass judgment no matter what the drug addiction. Keeping it hidden only drives addicts to darker places within their addiction, such as lying, stealing and hurting the people they love. They need the appropriate treatment which help individuals and their families through tough times. Treatment and recovery support can bring about long-term lifestyle changes. The church has a role to play in this process, we know a loving God through Jesus who teaches us about healing and rebirth.
Millions of American citizens are living productive lives in recovery are living proof of the effectiveness of treatment. Effective treatment saves lives. It also ultimately saves taxpayer money and helps us create safer communities.
Share this article, dispose of medications properly, and educate your congregation; there are so many families in your community suffering from this crisis. Reach out – care for your neighbor. For more information contact Rev. Sara Lilja or Rev. Susan Nelson Culinary from the Substance Recovery Engagement Task Group of our synod.