Pain Pills Are Making Teenagers Into Heroin Addicts
Heroin Epidemic in the USWhen Christopher Oates started his junior year of high school, everything was going his way. He had a great family life, he was the captain of the football team, and he generally seemed like a happy kid. He had his whole future in front of him. Nobody could have foreseen what would happen to this young man with such a bright future.
It all started one day when he was injured playing football. It didn't seem like a big deal, kids get minor injuries playing high school sports all the time, but it opened the door to something terrible. To help him deal with the pain from his injury, doctor's prescribed him Percocet. Tragically, what started as a temporary medication to help him deal with his injury, quickly became an addiction. Before long, he had moved on from Percocet to the stronger opiate Oxycontin.
Like so many others, Oxycontin would end up pushing Christopher into even more dangerous territory. Because the price of prescription pain killers is so high, many high school students who find themselves in the same situation as Christopher eventually turn to heroin. It can provide a similar high for significantly less money, but also at much greater risk. This is the trap that Christopher fell into, and it resulted in his death from an overdose by the time he turned 19.
We Are Dealing With A Heroin Addiction Epidemic
As sad as this story is, it's not particularly unique or notable. Thousands of people across the country are going through this exact same process every day, and many of them are teens. Most of these individuals follow the exact same progression as Christopher. They get a pain prescription for a legitimate medical reason but find themselves unable to stop when it runs out. Once they don't have any more money to buy their drug of choice, they feel like heroin is their only option. This is the driving factor behind the epidemic that is sweeping our country.
As we've struggled to deal with the effect heroin addiction is having on our society, even the most ardent drug warriors are starting to acknowledge the fact that incarcerating addicts doesn't work. Putting someone in jail for drug use is expensive, generally doesn't bring about long-term improvement, and fails to address the bio-behavioral issues that led them to addiction in the first place. Taking drugs away from an addict without rehabilitating them is like taking crutches away from someone with broken legs and expecting them to walk. They just can't do it.
We Can't Ignore The Impacts Of Heroin On Our Society Any Longer
If we really want to fix the problem, we need to move away from this punishment based model. Research has consistently shown that money invested in treatment more than pays for itself due to savings in hospitalization and incarceration costs. We have certainly seen that to be the case in our work in the field of wilderness therapy, where we often see clients who are in treatment for addiction problems. Many of these clients have been incarcerated in the past, but never got the help they really needed to address their underlying addiction issues. Without help, it's no surprise they have relapsed.
Though it will surely be difficult to make a substantial change to the way our criminal justice system deals with addicts, it is absolutely necessary if we are to make any progress in dealing with our addiction epidemic. People across the country are in need of help and counseling, but they are only receiving judgment and lengthy sentences.