More Younger Addicts Are Now Seeking Treatment
Since 1995, when the sale of Oxycontin became approved by the FDA as a pain medication, a disturbing trend has been on the rise: the amount of younger people addicted to heroin. As a result of growing addiction issues, there has seen a steep increase in the number of younger addicts seeking treatment.
Paul Scudo, the Director of Programs for a men’s recovery center in Denver stated, “We do see a number of applicants in that 16 to 21-year-old range. And again that is because they have access either through their parents medicine cabinet, their friends parents medicine cabinet.” (9NEWS).
As the number of people addicted to opioid painkillers and heroin have increased, the need for seeking treatment has also gone up. Due to the overwhelming number of people under 30 that have become addicted to heroin, treatment facilities around the country have been flooded with people in this age group.
How many people have been seeking treatment for drug addiction in recent years?
In 2013, an estimated 22.7 million Americans aged twelve or over (8.6 percent) were seeking treatment or needed treatment for a problem related to drugs or alcohol. Of those 22.7 million, only about 2.5 million people (0.9 percent) received treatment at a specialty facility. (The National Institute on Drug Abuse).
Between 2002 and 2013, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled: more than 8,200 people died in 2013 (CDC). The vast majority of these deaths were young people, aged 21 or under.
In spite of these disturbing trends, there does seem to be some good emerging. According to The National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug use is actually at a historic low among high school aged students. They state that drug use is on the decline. Furthermore, they found that, “despite the ongoing opioid overdose epidemic, prescription opioid misuse continued to decline the past year, reflecting a significant decrease over the past five years. In addition, heroin use is at the lowest rate since the Monitoring the Future survey began (in all ages surveyed).” Their study also found that “there was a continued, steady decline in the perception of availability of heroin among all ages, despite increasing use among adults.”
The National Institute on Drug Abuse also found that the vast majority of high school students expressed disapproval of heroin use. Some studies found this to be as high as 95 percent.
What could account for the shift in attitude about heroin use among younger people?
More than likely, it has to do with the scope of the addiction problem. Almost everyone you meet can now tell you a familiar, tragic story. They will talk about the heroin overdose, or the drug addiction of someone they know. They will say things like “they are seeking treatment and really need help.” Or, “They are actively addicted and I’m worried they’ll die.” Often this person will be a relative, coworker, classmate, or acquaintance. It is common to now hear about a person who was well-educated, likeable, and decent, who got caught up in drug use and died way too young.
This sad familiarity may be a huge reason that drug use among high school students is down: many young people are sick of seeing their friends die. They don’t want to become a statistic, and they witness the repercussions of drug use firsthand.
A Junior at Plymouth State University named Matt, who wished to keep his last name private, was asked about his opinion on heroin use among college-aged students. He replied, “It’s terrible stuff. Too many people are ruined from it. These were good kids, you know? They were normal a year or two before, and suddenly they are always high and their lives are a mess, or they’re dropping out of school, or you just don’t hear or see from them again. A few kids I knew from high school OD’d and died already. Everyone is tired of it.”
Matt’s sentiments seem to echo the opinions of countless others. It is the hope of this writer that the trend of younger addicts seeking treatment will continue, and that the cycle of addiction can be broken.