Heroin use is reaching epidemic levels in the United States. BBC, a British news channel, traveled undercover in Chicago to see how heroin has affected the city.
“If anything can be likened to Weapon of Mass Destruction, on a family, on a community, on a society, it’s heroin.”
Heroin is often seen as a problem for the weak or the poor. This, however, is far from the truth for the people of Chicago. Pouring in from the Mexican cartels, heroin seems to have no discrimination in its victims.
Steven Leonardi, a recovering addict in the video, began using heroin when he was 18. He lived in the suburbs of Chicago, and grew up in a middle class family. His father was an attorney. Despite having good beginnings, he fell victim to heroin.
“During my worst times, I was spending a couple hundred dollars a day, approximately. That’s a lot,” said Leonardi.
Many heroin users begin their addiction through abusing prescription painkillers. These medications, however, are expensive. Heroin is cheaper, and in many cases, more available then prescription opioid pills. Over time, though, the once “cheap” drug becomes a costly addiction. Heavy users may spend thousands a month on heroin.
The cost is what gets most addicts in criminal trouble. Heroin users quickly build a tolerance to the drug. In order to avoid what’s called “dopesickness”, more heroin needs to be bought, and more often. Addicts may turn to criminal activities to afford their habit, such as theft or prostitution.
“See, when you go to jail, that’s why most people are in jail. You get arrested for doing things to get it,” said an interviewee.
More unsettling than the cost, though, is the danger of using heroin. The purer the heroin is, the easier it is to overdose. In addition, heroin is often cut with other substances to make a bigger batch. One substance, called Fentanyl, is so powerful that it can cause an overdose in even the most experienced heroin users.
An overdose, without the aid of Narcan, is often fatal. According to NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse), overdoses have been on the rise in the past few decades. In 2014, there were six times more overdose deaths due to heroin than in 2001.
A young girl, named Stephanie Chiakas, is featured in the video. Chiakas was only 17 years old when she overdosed on heroin. She died from the overdose.
“She was an honor roll student. It was the worst thing in the world,” said Chiakas’s father.
For information on treating a heroin addiction, visit Step One Rehab. We can provide information on inpatient facilities that can help addicts into recovery.