Heroin is a highly addictive and illegal drug sold and used all around the world today. It is processed from morphine, which is a substance extracted from the seed pod of poppy plants. Like morphine, heroin helps with pain. Doctors prescribe morphine and other pain medicine like oxycontin and vicodin to patients after surgeries to help with the pain during the recovery process. It was synthesized from morphine in 1874 by an English chemist, but was not produced commercially until 1898 by the Bayer Pharmaceutical Company. This was in the attempt to use heroin in place of morphine due to problems of morphine abuse. However, it turned out that heroin was also highly addictive, and was eventually classified as an illegal drug in the United States.The increased use of heroin has also increased the amount of overdoses and deaths due to heroin. From 2015 to 2016, heroin death rates increased by 20 percent (CDC). In 2016, almost 15,500 people died from heroin related drug overdoses. Heroin usage and the increase of its usage will impact first responders everywhere, including Emergency Medical Services(EMS), firefighters and police officers.
The impact of heroin use is felt all across the United States, with heroin being identified as the most or one of the most important drug use issues affecting several local regions from coast to coast (NIDA). Today, heroin comes mostly from Southeast Asia, Southwest Asia, Latin America and Mexico. The greatest use increase has been seen in young adults, 18-25 years of age. Those addicted to heroin increased from 179,000 in 2005 to 369,000 in 2011 and to 591,000 in 2015 (Fogoros, Richard N, and Buddy T). One reason we are seeing an increase in heroin use is because there is also an increase of the misuse of prescription drugs. Usually before a person starts using heroin, they misused opiod pain medicine that was prescribed to them by a doctor for some form of pain. Once they no longer are being prescribed the medication, they feel they need something more, and that’s when they turn to heroin. After all, it’s cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription medications. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s 2013 report showed that almost four out of five (79.5 percent) of new heroin users previously abused prescription pain relievers (very well mind). But what does this increase mean for first responders?
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