Drugs are prepared to shoot intravenously by a user.

More than 8,200 Americans died of heroin-related overdoses in 2013, almost four times the number who died in 2002. That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reports a sharp rise in heroin use and addiction across almost all demographic groups. Experts attribute the upsurge to the drug’s wider availability and lower cost and to an increase in prescription painkiller abuse, which is a strong risk factor for heroin addiction. We discuss what’s underlying today’s heroin epidemic and what can be done to end it.

Guests:
Tracey Helton, author of "The Big Fix"; featured in the HBO documentary, "Black Tar Heroin"
Keith Humphreys, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Stanford School of Medicine; research scientist, VA Medical Center in Palo Alto
Sam Quinones, author of "Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic"

  • EIDALM

    The current sad state of affairs in the U S regarding drugs addictions and the ever increasing number of addicts and death ,all are due to the failed so called war on drugs ,not only it was a total failure in reducing addiction ,infact it had the opposite effects with the ever increasing number of addicts every day ,it also send millions of Americans to prison with the subsequent destruction of families ,drug wars and gun violence associated with selling drugs across all towns and cities in the U S ,as well as property crimes including robberies ,home invasions , burgaries ,assaults ,and murders

  • EIDALM

    The only way to solve the drug problem in the U S is to decriminalize drug use ,and treat addicts as sick patient not as criminals ,and offer them treatment for their addictions ,short of that we are putting our head in the sand ,and things will get much worse ,more death ,more crimes ,more people in prison ,and the spread of disease including HIV and others.all of that can be solved by decriminalizing drugs.

  • Skip Conrad

    And where does the herion come from? Afghanistan is the largest producer. Anybody care to connect the dots?

    • ponzerelli

      Last night I watched the documentary Bitter Lake by Adam Curtis, which explains that opium production became possible in a big way in Afganistan only because US contractors built a dam there in the 1950’s.

    • Kurt thialfad

      So it was confirmed that the heroin is coming from Mexico and Columbia, not Afghanistan. How is the product crossing the border? Is any being transported by “unaccompanied minors”?

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    How many who want to stop and seek serious help actually never ever go back to using? Seems to me that people who intentionally use heroin, crack, misuse prescription drugs and alcohol know there is a risk of overdosing, which to me is akin to wanting to commit suicide by drugs, so why stop them?

    • Reverend Lurlean Tucker

      Because life is precious. When people are rescued from the despair that drives them to dope and drink, they too can understand how truly valuable it is.

    • thucy

      I thought the guest’s response to your question was brilliant.
      It also seems that there are a whole range of activities that you might deem “suicidal”. How about over-eating, which leads to far more deaths in these United States? Driving on our nation’s freeways? Those are far more dangerous activities, but we don’t take such a dim view of the participants.

      • Beth Grant DeRoos

        Actually we as a nation spend BILLIONS on medications to treat chosen lifestyle issues like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, joint pain knee replacement surgery due to obesity issues, liver transplants due to cirrhosis from alcohol abuse, lung cancer from smoking.

        Medical insurance costs rise year after year, and its the responsible healthy lifestyle folks bearing the load. In essence they are being punished with higher premium cost so that the irresponsible can get expensive Band-Aids with NO demand that they take personal responsibility and do the hard work to get healthy.

        As a nation we spend more on treating problems than preventing problems. What can the Scandinavian countries as an example teach us when it comes to prevention. These countries have few vehicle, firearm, drug, poor lifestyle deaths.

        • c_woof

          I can tell you that high blood pressure does not always come from lifestyle choice. As one who eats mostly fish and veggies, drinks infrequently, does not smoke, stretches frequently, moderate exercise, is not overweight, it was a complete surprise when diagnosed, (and my hip gave out), and now take prescription meds, presumably forever.

          So, while some may be tut-tutted for some choices, not all those ailments you lump together are necessarily from the causes you surmise.

          • theresa

            same for me I am fit, low BMI, eat right and still have to take the darn medicine.

  • thucy

    Forum Producers:

    Please provide the link to Guest Sam Quinones’ brilliant piece in The New York Times on the heroin industry, and the upstanding young businessmen involved in the trade:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/19/opinion/sunday/serving-all-your-heroin-needs.html

    People often complain that certain groups aren’t sufficiently entrepreneurial, and that those same groups prefer government handouts to pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps work ethic. Well, the low-profile, God-fearing, hard-working, Xalisco boys are the answer to that. (Or perhaps a rebuke to the notion that all entrepreneurial endeavors are necessarily pro-social.)

    The good news is that the majority of the new users are white, so we can expect the government to take a far less punitive approach than they have in the past four decades of our failed “war on drugs”.

  • EIDALM

    While the U S represents only 5% of the world population ,Americans use more than 60% of illicit drugs produced worldwide ….Why ,please help me, find out why that is the case….

    • Kurt thialfad

      The usual tactic is to blame the victim, the user. Is it a demand-pull trend or supply-push. Is it because American are hedonists or because our government is lax in any kind of border / customs enforcement?

  • EIDALM

    I would like to add to decriminalizing drugs ,as well to decriminalize prostitution where women are often the victims of brutal pimps and violent clients and serial killers…..Fight the spread of sexually transmited diseases ,make it safer for prostitutes and their clients ,decriminalize prostitution….Prostitute are people too ,they could be our sisters,mothers ,or daughters….A famous U C Berkeley Noble prize winner ,his daughter was arrested for prostitution several times.

  • EIDALM

    No thanks to the bogus war on drugs the U S has far more people in prison than China ,or any other country in the world ,near 3.5 million people.,

  • EIDALM

    NAFTA destroyed near all family owned farms and small businesses in Mexico ,that led to great loss of jobs and the creation of the drug trade and the drug war and the mass migration of Mexicans to the U S .

  • EIDALM

    Decriminalizing drugs will solve the ever increasing prison population in the U S ,will reduce street violence , gangs ,shootings , death , property crimes ,and addiction ..

  • Reverend Lurlean Tucker

    Society needs to address the issues that cause rampant drug use in the first place, focusing on prevention instead of cure. Most professionals have the paradigm completely backwards. Young people should be able to feel they have a real chance to earn a living, have a rewarding job they can be proud of, and provide a comfortable lifestyle for their families. Otherwise the despair they feel drives them toward substance abuse. Take a good look at exactly what’s trickling down from the world of the wealthy above.

    • Reed

      Jobs are fleeing to China, Mexico, India, Vietnam etc.
      Maybe if people recognized that corporate globalists are radicals more dangerous than communists ever were, people would work to limit their plans like outsourcing, and TPP’s radical subjugation of the government by corporations.
      But there are some things people cannot say in America.

  • Noelle

    How do we treat the epidemic of chronic pain? Not all pain doctors are running pill mills.

  • geraldfnord

    What is it about their lives that makes so many find opiate addiction a reasonable career path, at least at first before the chemical dependency supervenes? Many use opiates recreationally without becoming addicts, and I don’t think it’s just a personal chemical difference. I’ve read of research that found a marked difference in addiction rates for lab rats given free access to cocaine between those held in interesting and fulfilling social environments and those alone in bare cages; the happier rats still used, but periodically, the deprived rats used constantly. Opiates aren’t cocaine, but all addiction seems to have something in common….

  • John Cunningham

    Getting off opiates is made much easier by using the drug Suboxone/ Buprenorphine which helps tremendously in beating the opiates off the brain receptors AND help with pain.

    • A Different Perspective

      Methadone maintenance programs have been serving that function for over 50 years and proven effective in reducing heroin and unprescribed opioid usage. Suboxone protocols require a higher level of compliance and personal motivation. Furthermore, suboxone is typically a white man’s medicine. Healthcare delivery in the inner city is highly racialized and stratified according to socio-economic status.

  • John Cunningham

    The solution is different kinds of pain medicine that manage pain without getting a person high.

    • A Different Perspective

      We need to first examine our core assumptions: Do we believe it should be *illegal* to be addicted to any pain-killing drug and *immoral* to get high from it? (“God forbid you get pleasure from a drug!”) The point is that there are different strokes for different folks. Most people who get hooked on heroin or pain pills have some deeper psychological disquietude they are attempting to resolve as well – mood disorders, schizophrenia, etc. Opiates are probably the closest thing to a panacea, “one pill for all that ails you…” Opiates serve many purposes.

  • theresa

    I suspect it is unlikely but is there any research on why it is addictive to some and not others. I have never finished a prescribed painkiller prescription as the side effects are worse than the pain. I can only tolerate the drugs when I am in the highest level of pain.

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      Theresa I am so glad you noted people who detest the effects of pain medication and stop taking the medication. Having had morphine when much of my insides were removed or redone, I insisted they NOT give me morphine and other pain medication because they made me depressed and put me in a fog.

  • John Cunningham

    Heroin does come in from the Far East. It comes by the ton in shipping containers. The heroin from Afghanistan is of higher quality so it does have a higher value.

  • John Cunningham

    People who do physically demanding jobs fine great relief in pain meds.

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      Physically demanding jobs like what? And are you talking over the counter pain medication or hard drugs?

  • Another Mike

    The speaker goes a bit too far in dismissing the impact of NAFTA on Mexican emigration to the US:

    Under Nafta, Mexico Suffered, and the United States Felt Its Pain
    by Laura Carlsen, director of the Americas program at the Center for International Policy.

    “Nafta’s failure in Mexico has a direct impact on the United States.
    Although it has declined recently, jobless Mexicans migrated to the
    United States at an unprecedented rate of half a million a year after Nafta.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/11/24/what-weve-learned-from-nafta/under-nafta-mexico-suffered-and-the-united-states-felt-its-pain

    • thucy

      Thanks for the link – worthwhile reading.

  • Saif Adwan

    Is the heroin epidemic different from previous drug epidemics?

    What is a misconception the public has about heroin and what are the ramifications of that misconception?

    • Another Mike

      I know that people were recreationally using the prescription medications Percodan and Percoset 40 years ago.
      Until 1974, a heroin addict could go to the US government hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, to be detoxed. That year, it became a federal prison.

  • fakeanonymousguest

    There should be tests to determine if people have a predisposition for opioid addiction and then given alternate pain therapy. I have been given opioids for wisdom teeth and it neither appealed to me did it work particularly well. Isn’t there a genetic marker to determine a predisposition for this?

  • Another Mike

    My 97-year-old mother-in-law needs opiods for pain. Her doctor says she should have had her hip and knee joints replaced twenty years ago, but it’s too late now, as bone grinds on bone.

  • BDN

    These topics on Forum are disturbing, first crotch grabbing then heroin, sounds like the devils work to me.

  • EIDALM

    I would like to end this discussion by saying that all form of addictions are form of illness that some are more prone to it than others , for example I consider myself one of the lucky people who had no interest or joy ,or used drugs of any kind including Tobacco . or even Aspirin.but I do like to drink hot tea,

  • D’Anne Burwell

    Thank you to Keith, Sam and Tracey for pointing out the magnitude of the drug problem in this country. OxyContin was the gateway drug to heroin for my 19-year-old son. I’m so glad Keith Humphreys pointed out Purdue Pharma’s culpability in creating addicts with their misleading marketing and telling docs there is no risk. Powerful prescription drugs, wildly overprescribed, are a huge underlying factor in today’s heroin epidemic.

  • Jonnie

    Tracy needs to man-up and grow a pair! Oh, she can’t, she’s a wyman and a millennial so not responsible for her decisions.

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