There is a heroin epidemic underway in America and most prominently on New York’s Staten Island. As one of the five boroughs, Staten Island houses approximately 470,000 residents most of which are middle-class, blue collar workers.
Its newspapers are filling with obituaries of early deaths – teens dying of a heroin overdoses and young adults who lose their lives to the drug because of its highly addictive quality. According to the New York Times, in 2012, thirty-six people died from heroin overdoses, which is higher than New York’s other four boroughs and the highest number in a decade. The statistics continue to be staggering: from January through April 13, 2014, approximately 1,700 glassine bags of heroin were seized which is 500 more than what was collected in these same four months in 2013. Overall, the amount of heroin seized has jumped to over 300% between 2011 and 2013.
Perhaps one reason for the epidemic, not just in New York, but also throughout the entire Northeast and other parts of America, is heroin’s low price. On recent television programs regarding the epidemic, it’s become the drug to sell and even to push on teens who might be looking for a high. One NBC show indicated that many turn to heroin as a lesser expensive version of illegal pain medication. Plus, there has been a crackdown on prescription pill use, making it harder to get and heroin the best alternative.
In Newark, bundles of glassine bags can sell for as low as $3, which can then be sold elsewhere for $10. Whether its $3 or $10, the cost is incredibly cheap, making it attractive and easily accessible, especially for teens.
In fact, some dealers are actually lying to young adults and teens because they want to push the drug and make money. They suggest it to users who might be asking for marijuana, for example, which is much less risky than heroin. Sadly, other teens might even ask for and expect to be getting one drug (like cocaine) and get heroine instead. This is the case for a young high school student in Vermont who later managed to become entirely drug free.
But others are not so lucky. In New York City, heroin deaths increased 84% from 2010 to 2012. As mentioned above, the death rate on Staten Island is almost 3 times higher than the rest of New York City. For this reason, Staten Island Drug Treatment facilities are filling fast. Yet, some families are sending their addicted teens to treatment facilities in Brooklyn, a way to get them out of the community and away from dysfunctional influences.
Even New York City police officers are jumping on the treatment bandwagon. They are being trained to use Naloxone, a potentially life saving drug to use on someone who might be in the middle of a heroin overdose. Staten Island police officers are participating in a pilot program where they are trained to use Naloxone nasal spray. In one case, they injected the treatment drug into the nose of someone they found unconscious and within 30 seconds, he gasped, started breathing, and opened his eyes.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 1996 to 2010, more than 53,000 people were trained in how to administer Naloxone to avoid overdoses and so far over 10,000 lives have been saved. As of 2010, Naloxone has been distributed to 15 states as well as the District of Columbia.
Although Naloxone is an emergency drug, the greater treatment of course is a rehabilitative one, those like Staten Island Drug Treatment facilities and others across the country. Perhaps between Naloxone, the life-saving wonder drug, and treatment facilities, the lives of more and more teens will be saved.
Sgueglia, K, Draznin, H., and Field, A. (2014). The Heroin Epidemic and the Antidote For Overdose. CNN Health. Retrieved on May 5, 2014 from http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/10/health/heroin-epidemic-naloxone/
Goodman, J.D. and Wilson, M. (May 4, 2014). Heroin’s New Hometown: On Staten Island, Rising Tide of Heroin Takes Hold. The New York Times. Region. Retrieved on May 5, 2014 from http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/10/health/heroin-epidemic-naloxone/