Almost every year, heroin overdose numbers in the U.S. increases. Heroin overdose rates have quadrupled since the year 2000. The number of heroin-related deaths rose from 0.7 to 2.7 per 100,000 in 2013 compared to 0.7 deaths per 100,000 in 2000. Overdose rates in rural areas like the Midwest and northeastern states like Vermont, where heroin overdose rates are much higher than in urban areas, have risen the most recently.
What makes heroin so widely used in the U.S.? It is believed that there are several theories. Heroin is easily available and cheap. A heroin’s purity and potency are also at an all-time high. Due to a new law, the most abused substances, including prescription medicines, made it harder to find heroin overdose, some people began using heroin.
There are many reasons for the increase in heroin abuse and use. Still, the incident of fatal heroin overdoses is one of the primary reasons that heroin abuse and addiction can persist even after intensive treatment. Across the United States, the number of overdose deaths involving heroin has increased dramatically in recent years. The U.S. had an heroin overdose death toll of over 13,000 in 2015. The quality and strength of heroin are unknown because it is illegally sold. As well as that, it is sometimes contaminated with toxic substances such as antifreeze, hexavalent chromium, Benzmeth, etc.
In general, heroin overdoses involve people who have been addicted to the drug for a long time, but some do it their first time. In addition to heroin, many people abuse prescribed pain medicine and other drugs. It is also possible that they are alcohol abusers. A combination of these compounds can be extremely dangerous. There has been a significant increase in opioid use since 2007. Additionally, heroin use has changed in terms of demographics. People who abuse prescription opioid painkillers are now believed to be on the fast track to heroin overdose. Since heroin is cheaper than prescription opioids on the street, many people opt to use heroin instead.
Drug Overdose Deaths Remain High
Nearly 841,000 people have died since 1999 from a drug overdose. In 2019, 70,630 heroin overdose deaths occurred in the United States.
According to Age-Adjusted Rates, There Were More than A 4% Rise in Overdose Deaths Between 2018 and 2019.
- Overdose deaths are mainly caused by opioids (mostly synthetic opioids except methadone). Overdose deaths involving opioids include 72.9% synthetic opioids.
- In 2019, overdose deaths involving opioids were 49,860 (around 70.6% of all overdose deaths).
- Synthetic opioids are often involved in the deaths caused by overdose that involve psychostimulants such as methamphetamine.
Statistics Show that The Geographic Breakdown of Synthetic Opioid and Methamphetamine-Related Overdose Deaths Has Shifted.
- Synthetic opioid deaths increased most rapidly in the West (68.7%) from 2018 to 2019.
- In the Northeast, death rates associated with psychostimulants have risen the highest (43.8%).
- Previously, deaths caused by synthetic opioids and psychostimulants reached their highest levels in the West, while those caused by synthetic opioids peaked in the East.
- In no state did the number of new residents from 2018 to 2019 significantly decrease.
The U.S. government does not track death rates for every drug. At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) has a searchable database known as CDC Wonder, which contains data on deaths associated with many of the more commonly used drugs available through 2019. Also available through the NCHS are 12 months of provisional data for states and drug categories.
How to Recognize Heroin Overdose
A Heroin Overdose may show many different signs, including:
- Lack of breathing, shallow breathing, or difficulty breathing
- Almost invisible pupils
- Tongue discolouration and dry mouth
- Low blood pressure and weak pulse
- Lips, fingernails and nails with blue tints
- Cramps/spasms in the stomach
- Being disoriented and incapable of conversing
- Excessive tiredness
- Unconsciousness and coma
Death can result from medicating heroin overdoses if they are not dealt with immediately. Brain damage is a chance if treatment is not received, but oxygen is not getting to the brain for a long period.
Does Overdose Indicate Treatment Is Necessary?
A prescription heroin overdose is a sign of the need for treatment in many instances. In that sense, somebody can overdose when using a new substance for the first time. In such cases, the individual may not necessarily show signs or symptoms of substance abuse or addiction, making addiction treatment not necessary for them. The heroin overdose itself is likely the biggest deterrent for future use, but education about substance abuse is still suggested.
Yet, there remains a possibility that many individuals who overdose are diagnosed with a substance abuse type disorder or addiction. Treatment programs that include detoxification and therapy for heroin overdoses can be beneficial. Those seeking treatment for substance abuse should address both the underlying reasons, as well as any co-occurring disorders. With assistance, it is possible to recover, reducing the risk of heroin overdoses and other health issues in the future.
Further, according to The Drug Policy Alliance, only those who witness a heroin overdose and those who suffer a drug overdose can be protected under the Good Samaritan law. Under most circumstances, they are not covered by laws prohibiting under the influence, simple possession of drugs, or possession of drug paraphernalia.
The Good Samaritan immunity law, which reduces the fear of contacting professional medical help, is viewed as a potential life-saving law by many. The time between taking the drug and death in an heroin overdose may range from 1 to 3 hours. Emergency responders who can reach overdose sufferers within this period have a more likely chance of saving the person’s life.
Additional Heroin Overdose Signs
Aaron Sternlicht, LMHC, CASAC, tells WebMD Connect to Care that if the individual is unresponsive when they face heroin overdose, it’s a great sign. He’s a therapist and addiction specialist in Brooklyn, N.Y. I mean to refer to the individual who does not respond physically, verbally, or appear sleepy; this individual is unable to wake up even when being shaken or shouted at.
Standing up or in the middle of a sentence can cause a person who has heroin overdosed to fall asleep, says Bryan Canterbury, MD, an emergency room physician in Newton, Massachusetts. They tend to loll their head a lot when they sit down, which is a warning sign. Although you may not instantly perceive “heroin overdose” unless there’s some kind of drug paraphernalia nearby, you may be able to recognize intoxication of some kind. In addition, Canterbury says, you should pay attention to changes in your mental status. You may encounter someone who is completely incoherent, stammering, angry, or making no sense whatsoever.
How Should an Overdose Be Handled?
Whenever you suspect that someone you know is overdosing on drugs or alcohol, you should call 911 immediately. Stay with the person until medical professionals arrive; do not leave them alone. You should hang a passed-out person on their side, just as if they had vomited if you witness an heroin overdose. Choking accidents should be less likely to occur. The individual should consume neither food nor drinks. The friend should advise emergency responders regarding the substances taken to get appropriate treatment. In the event of an alcohol or heroin overdose, it is forbidden to expose a person to a cold shower. Sobering up through these “treatments” does not help alcohol intoxication long term. Accidents and injuries may result from them. Addictions to alcohol, marijuana, and other substances, including heroin overdoses, can be treated instantly.
This Could Happen if The Request Is Not Received.
- Vomit could aspirate, or the person could choke on them.
- It might even cause the person’s heart to stop.
- A person may notice the occurrence of slowed breathing, or slowed breathing may cease altogether.
- A drop in body temperature is possible.
- People who vomit excessively may suffer dehydration, which may lead to seizures.
- The risk of death is high if respiratory arrest occurs; brain damage and organ injury may result in a very high probability of death.
In groups, users may gain more comfort using drugs because their companions will be there to help them in case of need. Friends and acquaintances may feel retaliated against by law enforcement if they call 911 in social situations. People may move away from a heroin overdose if they suspect the person has died if it appears the individual is overdosing.
Steps to Take
In the event of an heroin overdose, call your loved one’s local 911 org. Do not try to treat yourself at home with any remedy; they often work in the other direction and waste your time. A naloxone dose that has been acquired through clinical trials or as a free distribution to a drug overdose victim may be administered without its drug in a person without availability to a naloxone dose. When an heroin overdose is suspected to be the underlying cause of a patient’s medical distress, this can be a lifesaving step and often is considered the first step in treating the patient. But the law does not permit families and friends of addicts to be legally prescribed Naloxone across every state. More details can be obtained from your doctor.
In the Aftermath of the Drug Overdose
To prevent an heroin overdose from occurring more frequently, you should use the experience to explain the importance of getting immediate treatment. Almost everyone who decides to use heroin is at risk of overdosing. It is impossible to predict what level of purity and the particular mixture of toxins and other substances will be found on any given batch being sold on the street. Yesterday’s dose could have been the same weight as the one given today, although it might have been stronger by purity variation.
Only through recovery from heroin abuse can we avert the risk of an heroin overdose. Contact the above phone number if you’re looking for more information about heroin detox and treatment for the addict you know.
Please note: the information contained in this article is not to be considered a substitute for medical advice or intervention. Contact 615-490-9376 seek help immediately if you suspect a loved one has heroin overdose.
Ben Lesser is one of the most sought-after experts in health, fitness and medicine. His articles impress with unique research work as well as field-tested skills. He is a freelance medical writer specializing in creating content to improve public awareness of health topics. We are honored to have Ben writing exclusively for Dualdiagnosis.org.