Heroin use epidemic in Cape Region

October 22, 2013

Recent stories in the Cape Gazette document a deeply troubling fact: Heroin use is now commonplace across the Cape Region. It is cheap, easy to obtain and users no longer need a needle to get high. People of all income levels, education and ages are chasing the dragon. A $10 hit quickly leads to a $500-a-day habit that ravages family finances and has led to a surge in break-ins and burglaries.

Dependence on heroin or opiate pain reliev­ers has become commonplace even on ma­ternity wards, even at Beebe Medical Center, where doctors say the problem has reached epidemic proportions. In 2012, nearly one in eight babies was born to a mother who used heroin or synthetic opiates during pregnancy; nationally, one baby is born every hour suffer­ing from opiate dependency.

Babies born dependent on opiates suffer nu­merous symptoms that adults also experience, from vomiting and tremors to inability to eat and seizures. Infants typically spend weeks in the hospital as they are weaned off drugs.

Studies show babies born dependent on opiates can overcome early delays and meet developmental goals on par with their peers; the most important indicator of future health and development is a stable family environ­ment.

But how can families establish a stable en­vironment when heroin is so easily available, while treatment options locally and statewide remain scarce? People who have made the decision to get help may face weeks of delays, and while new drugs to treat heroin addiction are available, doctors face restrictions on the number of prescriptions they can write.

Opiate-based addictions threaten not only those caught in their grip; addiction is a deepening black hole in our economy. People who otherwise would be working and raising families are instead spending hundreds and thousands of dollars for drugs that produce nothing more than the desire for more drugs.

Addiction is no longer someone else’s problem. Identifying heroin users and getting them treatment must be a priority not only for healthcare providers and police, but for everyone.

This is an epidemic. No one is immune from its impact.

  • Cape Gazette editorials are considered and written by members of the Cape Gazette editorial board which includes Dennis Forney, publisher; Trish Vernon, editor; Dave Frederick, sports editor emeritus; Laura Ritter, news editor; Jen Ellingsworth, associate editor; and Nick Roth, sports editor.

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