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Teen Heroin Use: Statistics, Facts, and Myths

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Teen heroin use is a huge concern. There are many teens addicted to heroin. Furthermore, there are more than anyone would like to admit, that is for certain.

Teens turn to drugs for recreational purposes or to help them cope with the stresses of life. Teens often start using drugs in a recreational setting. At a party or somewhere with friends they decide to give something a try, and as their curiosity gets the better of them, they continue to use different drugs as the previous ones just don’t satisfy them any longer. Heroin use in teens doesn’t usually start there; it is not the first drug they turn to and it is not as commonly available. But it does happen, and in many cases, it’s more common among homeless teens living on the streets. Heroin is a crippling drug for teens. In addition, it is very addictive. Furthermore, once addiction takes hold it is very hard to stop. Hence, many may need teen rehab.

Teen Heroin Abuse Statistics

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), teens have easy access to heroin. 29.7 percent of 12th graders say that it is easy to obtain. Even 8th graders (12.6 percent) say that they can acquire the drug. It’s always interesting to note when and where people use heroin for the first time. Generally, it’s at a party or small social gathering where someone brings a stash to the party and offers it to others. According to NSDUH (National Survey on Drug Use and Health Information), in 2012 approximately 91,000 persons over the age of 12 used heroin for the first time. Amongst recent first-time heroin users, aged 12 to 49, the average age was 20.7. This indicates that many heroin users wait until they leave their teenagers years to begin using the drug.

Facts on Teen Heroin Addiction Risks

Heroin can come in the form of a brown powder or black sticky substance known as ‘tar heroin’. Heroin abusers do not know the actual strength of the drug or its true contents. Hence, they are at risk of overdose or death. Heroin also poses special problems because of the transmission of HIV and other diseases that can occur from sharing needles.

Heroin abuse has significant negative effects on users’ heart and respiratory system as well as takes a toll on the emotional self.

Regardless of the method of ingestion, heroin has a direct effect on the brain and organs. When people inject heroin they report an initial ‘rush’ of euphoria followed by drowsiness, or ‘nodding’ in and out of consciousness. Hence, the effects of heroin on motor coordination are extremely dangerous and compromise the teens ability to perform normally. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, chronic users may develop collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, and liver or kidney disease. Furthermore, pulmonary complications, including various types of pneumonia, may result.

Common Teen Heroin Abuse Myths Parents Believe

  • One of the most common and most detrimental myths about teen heroin abuse, is that heroin isn’t common. Some parents incorrectly believe that teens stick to “light” drugs to party. By remaining in denial, parents neglect to recognize the signs and fail to intervene when it’s required. Signs of heroin use can include changes in routine, changes in personal care, and a new recklessness. In addition, teens that were once successful in school might stop attending or start failing their classes. They can also neglect personal hygiene, or care less about their appearance. Irresponsible behavior can be anything that is out of the ordinary for a teen. Parents who believe the myth that teens don’t use heroin are sure to miss these essential signs. All parents need to be aware!
  • Parents may also believe that they can’t intervene in their teen’s drug use because of their own history with drugs. While they might have experimented with drugs themselves as teens, it doesn’t make them hypocritical to want better for their own children. Parents cannot fail to step in if they suspect drug abuse; if they do, the cost can be the life of their child.

Myths About Heroin Use Teens Believe

Parents aren’t the only ones that believe some of the myths about heroin. Teens can be just as guilty when it comes to believing things that are untrue about heroin use. This makes it more likely that they will abuse heroin simply because they don’t truly know any better. Parents need to discuss these myths and truths with their children so they can make better decisions.

  • One myth that teens may believe is that heroin is natural so it’s okay to do. While this true (in most cases) of heroin and other illegal drugs, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have negative effects. Many natural substances can be harmful and still have addictive properties that are bad for teens. For example, some of the negative side effects of short-term heroin use can include insomnia, cold flashes, pain in the muscles and bones, restlessness and vomiting. Long-term side effects are even more severe and include malnutrition, liver disease, pulmonary complications and infections that appear in the heart lining and valves, just to name a few of the health problems that can surface. These negative side effects of heroin use prove that even a natural drug can be very bad.
  • Another myth is that it’s okay for teens just to try heroin and that they won’t become addicted. The reality with heroin is that even one instance of curiosity can lead to a long-term addiction. Teens may also think that trying any drug is okay because their friends are doing it or because their parents have done it in the past. Drug use cannot be justified based on the actions of others, especially not when it can lead to a person ruining their own life. With a better understanding of the facts about heroin, teens can use their own judgment and make smarter choices.

Teen Heroin Treatment

Those who want to be truly successful need to seek help in order to overcome their addiction.

Heroin is not a drug that teens can overcome on their own. They may think they’re using a drug recreationally at first, but as they use it one time, they become addicted. Detox help is required to overcome heroin use; without it, withdrawal symptoms are so strong relapse will almost indefinitely occur. Parents, teachers, and friends who know a loved one has a problem should seek support and get help investigating treatment programs. Heroin drug abuse is crippling, and at a time of life when a teen is just in the process of developing the foundation for the rest of their life, any roadblock like addiction can be extremely detrimental.

Funding for Teen Drug Treatment

Teen drug treatment funding is available to help those teens who don’t have the resources to get into treatment on their own.

They need and are as deserving of help as anyone else, and they should make steps to find it. Programs are available that are subsidized or that cover the costs of treatment for teens. Insurance often covers treatment as well. These can be privately funded or funded by the government, but with a bit of effort, it is possible to get a teen help without finances standing in their way.

Heroin is a deadly drug. If you suspect your teen/loved one is dabbling, please reach out to us. We’ve been there and we are blessed to have made it back from the brink. Call any time. We are here to help.

Image courtesy of iStock.