Hooked on Heroin: From the Streets to the Suburbs

glee star cory monteithIn mid-July, Glee star Cory Monteith was found dead in his Vancouver hotel room. The cause of death was found to be a combination of alcohol and heroin.

Recently, the United States has seen a spike in new initiates of heroin abuse, according to Michele Leonhart, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Heroin use is a growing problem for law enforcement, schools, and cities.

Young adults who are addicted to prescription painkillers often turn to heroin as a cheaper, more dangerous alternative. The effects of heroin are similar to pills: pain relief, drowsiness, sedation, addiction, etc. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse says that almost half of teens and young adults who inject heroin said that they’ve abused prescription painkillers in the past.

The highly addictive opiate was first produced from morphine in 1874. Sometimes called “junk” or “smack,” heroin is typically thought of as an inner-city problem. Think of a heroin addict and one envisions a strung-out junkie with tracks on his or her arm. Today, heroin has a new face. It’s not just the inner-city population anymore—it’s affluent teenagers in the suburbs. It’s the Cory Monteiths of the world. The economics and demographics of heroin use have expanded over the years.

The drug can be snorted, smoked, or injected. The body’s reaction to heroin depends on how pure it is and what substances may have been mixed with it. Tolerance builds quickly. Long-term users can suffer from a variety of health concerns, including heart and lung disease. Injecting it into a vein can lead to collapsed veins, hepatitis, and HIV. “Skin popping” (injecting heroin under the skin) can produce round lesions and scars. After experiencing an initial high, the user feels drowsy and his or her breathing and heartbeat slow down.

A heroin overdose can result in seizures, a coma, or even death. Somebody experiencing an overdose would report difficulty breathing, dry mouth, lowered blood pressure, and a weak pulse. His or her tongue becomes discolored, pupils become constricted, and fingernails and lips turn blue.

Often in my practice, I have found young adults complain of “boredom” as being one of the reasons they turn to drugs to soothe their restlessness. What may be lacking for many of the young adults today is a sense of purpose or passion in their life. As I mentioned in my book, The Law of Sobriety, purpose is what guides your choices. If Monteith was working at his passion of acting and singing, he was certainly living a purposeful life. But perhaps he was bored and functioning on autopilot. It may be worth taking a look at what society can do as a culture to help young people nurture their dreams and their longings rather than watch them fall into the emotions of discontent and agitation. Everyone has a calling and a desire to have meaning in life. Finding one’s purpose may be one of the most important breakthroughs an addicted person can discover; it may even save his or her life.

The attempt to break free from heroin addiction will be accompanied by both painful physical side effects and a strong mental battle. Opiates are the most painful detox. During the body’s readjustment, temporary discomforts will no doubt be experienced, but it will be worth it in the end. When dealing with withdrawals, distraction can be beneficial. Shifting focus from the pain experienced to a television show or a book can aid the addicted person in forgetting about withdrawal symptoms for a period of time. A person addicted to heroin can only get clean when he or she decides to place long-term goals ahead of short-term interests.

© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Sherry Gaba, LCSW

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  • Bree

    October 1st, 2013 at 10:34 AM

    I have never had anyone in my life have their lfe ruined by drugs but we have all seen it too many times by the young stars of Hollywood.
    I have often wondered what happened in their lives that would draw them into this behavior so easily that I have never been attracted to at all, especially when you read about so many and it seems that they had the same kinds of expereinces growing up for the most part that the rest of us did.
    I don’t know, I guess it’s the fame that sucks them in or the availability of the drugs around them, because I always fail to see why such promising young talent always seems to get swept up in and shut down in this cycle of abuse and addiction.

  • mari a

    October 2nd, 2013 at 3:50 AM

    I do hate it that addiction is a struggle for so many young stars, but what I hate is that so many of them continue to be glorified even after their deaths. Yes, they were talented and their loss will be mourned by fans and family, but are these the role models we really want for our children? I think that rather than glorigying, then this is the time to have those difficult conversations, to talk to our children about the dangers of drugs, that there is no one who is immune to the dangers of drugs and that it is bets not to even begin dabbling and experimenting because this could easily and quickly lead to full blown addiction.

  • AnneMason

    October 2nd, 2013 at 11:50 AM

    Drug usage is such a horrible thing that many suffer with silently as this young actor did- my teen daughter loved him and it wasn’t until he died that we learned about the exten of his demons. I wish he and his family peace in their suffering.

  • stressmom

    October 3rd, 2013 at 3:54 AM

    I thought that meth was the thing we were all supposed to be on the lookout for and now I hear that heroin is cycling through as the drug of choice all over again?
    Well, I guess it depends on who you are and where you live because I always thought that this was kind of an expensive drug for kids to take so that this wouldn’t necessarily be something that I would need to worry about.
    But I guess like so many other things if someone wants to try something or do something bad enough they will find a way to try it.

  • Lee

    October 5th, 2013 at 8:19 AM

    How is there all this money available for kids to start using this drug? I get it with the stars, of course they have the money to pretty much do whatever they want and that’s where so many of their problems start to begin with. But what about the normal people in the world who just hold down regular jobs and live from paycheck to paycheck? How do they find the money to buy this when I have always heard that it is pretty expensive? That doesn’t make much sense to me.

  • David

    June 16th, 2015 at 7:43 AM

    It’s ok Lee, most people don’t get how people getting high get the money. It’s called hustling. I was a drug addict for years. And when you need the money, you get it. Lots of times you know the dealers, you can trade favors or goods. Steal, return things, give people rides, help working girls, be middle man. Playing the game. You get good at it. Drugs are actual satan on earth. As if humans are possessed by something stronger than them. I was unstoppable and on a one track road. Look out for a heroin user, they steal everything you have. Crack is no joke either!

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