The most important thing to know about the opiate epidemic is that:
You are already affected.
If you are alive and living in this country you know people who are addicted to opiates. You may think they just 'party', or are undependable, or think they are perfectly fine. People addicted to opiates can be some of the most creative and secretive people that have ever walked the globe.
We don't want to believe it because it seems counter to how we see ourselves and our families.
The more familiar we are with an addicted person, the less objective we sometimes are. We need to hear what people, their behavior, and our own intuitions are saying.
Do not view opiates of choice as better or worse.
Percocet, OxyContin, Dilaudid, Vicodin, fentanyl, and heroin addiction all look exactly the same. The mental obsession and the physical dependence/withdrawal are identical.
All opiate roads lead to IV heroin.
Unless someone has unusual resources, opiate addiction has a natural progression to IV heroin. Financially and practically it becomes impossible to keep up with a prescription opiate addiction. Heroin is cheaper and powerful. Snorting heroin may last awhile but it doesn't make the best use of the heroin. If someone is eating pills they will by necessity begin snorting heroin. If someone is snorting heroin they will by necessity begin IV use. At any point they can die or go to prison from using ANY opiate but know that this is the natural progression of use.
People can shoot heroin in any vein, not just their arms. I have worked with many families who pulled up their family member's sleeves with great relief, only to find out that their child was shooting in their toes or legs.
'Borrowing' medications, going to multiple doctors, or being on opiates consistently for unrelated issues (3 years of steady opiate use for issues ranging from teeth to high school knee injuries) are all signs of a progressed opiate addiction.
Blockers like Suboxone and Methadone can be used appropriately or abused. Use of them is not 100% proof of abstinence but can be a part of a pattern of continued use of other substances. IT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE to buy these medications off the street as a recovery plan.
Use of other illicit substances including alcohol and marijuana can put the opiate addict at great risk. In my experience a person will either relapse immediately on opiates or become extremely compulsive in their use of another substance when they attempt to use other substances recreationally. There maybe exceptions to this rule but I have seen more people die by far than be successful in the attempt.
There is hope and people DO RECOVER.
For further links please visit our Resources Page under, Addictions and Recovery.