As the opioid crisis rages across the country, taking thousands of lives and affecting countless families and communities, people are asking serious questions about how to cope with this deadly epidemic. Many of these people have never encountered addiction in their lives, but are struggling to help a friend or family member deal with its effects. Through the years, researchers have already wondered: does addiction discriminate against people based on their gender, race, or social class? Their complex findings have helped medical professionals and policy makers determine how best to address this growing national issue.
How Does Heroin Abuse Look?
Heroin addiction, like all other forms of substance abuse, is complex and simple at the same time. A powerfully addictive substance, heroin creates a physical dependence in its users. Most heroin users do not use the drug to achieve a pleasurable high, but to avoid the painful consequences of withdrawal. A heroin withdrawal, while not lethal, causes vomiting and nausea, dehydration, severe sweating, and even bone pain. It usually feels like you are dying, which makes it difficult to stick to a recovery program.
Various highly effective treatment methods do exist. A complete, medically-supervised withdrawal Methadone doses and opiate blockers like Suboxone, distributed by a psychiatrist, can satisfy the body’s dependence on heroin without its harmful side effects. Without emotional and financial support, however, these methods don’t always work. Why is this? Perhaps because, as researchers have found, heroin addiction targets some populations more than others.
Does Addiction Discriminate?
Although researchers used to believe that addiction was an “equal opportunity disease,” the last few decades of data suggest that certain groups are much more likely to develop certain types of dependencies. Men and women, young people, the elderly—all can experience the destructive power of heroin addiction.
But the “equal opportunity” perspective, while accurate in terms of heroin addiction’s physical effects, ignores the fact that many people turn to substance abuse in order to cope with problems that would otherwise seem totally insurmountable. It is almost always easier to obtain and abuse drugs than to find a way out of stressful life circumstances.
Rather than asking “Does heroin addiction discriminate?” we should be asking “How does heroin addiction discriminate?” In the United States, for example, most drug and alcohol addiction is concentrated among low-income people. While anyone can battle addiction—regardless of their social class—factors like unemployment, homelessness, and lack of education can take a serious toll on mental health. As the American middle class shrinks, these effects are sure to become even more pronounced.
Many people who struggle with heroin addictions are also dealing with a serious mental issue like depression, psychosis, or PTSD. The drug can numb or distract from the painful symptoms of these conditions, and becomes a tempting alternative when expensive treatments and pharmaceuticals seem largely out of reach.
Recent studies have shown that roughly 75 percent of women who abuse drugs and alcohol have a history of sexual abuse. Emotional pressure points like childhood physical or sexual mistreatment, a painful divorce, the death of a close friend or family member, or the diagnosis of a severe chronic illness can drive people to make choices they never would have considered before.
Some people assume that quitting an addictive drug like heroin is a straightforward process. Why can’t the affected person just stop taking the drug? Why can’t they just enroll in a treatment program and fix the problem? You can’t “just quit” because genuine, long-lasting recovery takes a long time. It requires the addicted person to come to terms with their past trauma, current circumstances, and future plans. It also requires understanding and empathy from the suffering person’s loved ones.
Contact Us For Help
So does heroin addiction discriminate? In some ways, it does; in others, it doesn’t. If you’re one of the millions of Americans who has been affected by a heroin addiction, please know that help is available for you and your loved ones. At CARUS Recovery, we have helped many families cope with the damaging effects of drug and alcohol abuse. When recovery happens, relationships heal and lives are restored. To learn more about our state-of-the-art rehabilitation program, please call us at 877-225-7774.