In Pulp Fiction, Eric Stoltz tells John Travolta that “coke is as dead as dead. Heroin is coming back in a big fucking way.” That was 1995 and it’s truer now than ever. According to Phoenix’s ABC 15, heroin overdose deaths have doubled in the United States from 2010 to 2012. Heroin, you could say, is the Phish of Schedule 1 narcotics: always working in the background, even when forgotten about by the masses, with a cult following that demands universal respect.
As Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Cincinnati Health Center Michael Lyons said, “The human cost is severe. This is a true public heath crisis. It’s not just someone else’s problem.” I’m the first to question any news publication’s validity, specifically one out of Arizona, but I couldn’t agree with him more. The fact that this isn’t just a “bad part of town” problem anymore should make this a front page story but with NBA basketball around the corner, Ebola and ISIS who cares, right? Besides, heroin is so 90’s. Yeah, and like other aspects of the 90’s, it should be remembered constantly. According to ABC, in 2012, around 3,700 people died from heroin OD’s in the US—specifically in the Northeast and the South (Kentucky and Ohio, even more specifically).
So Why Now?
It’s easy to figure out why heroin is back: prescription medication regulations are becoming more enforced and supply is plummeting. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention claims that 75% of new heroin users (welcome to the club!) previously abused opiates. As we all know, heroin is an opiate but it has one thing going for it that, unless the user has the “gold package” with his or her health insurance company, prescription medication doesn’t: it’s way cheaper—like the difference between a Ferrari with zero miles on it and a skateboard cheaper.
The reduced supply in prescription medications like Morphine and Oxycontin has left people with heroin. This is certainly an economical choice, but with less of a socially acceptable side to it—the equivalent, perhaps, of taking your sister to prom.
Time to Come out of Your Nod and Wake Up
What this means is that scattered across this modern day Roman Empire, from sea to shining sea, are 1.5 million every day all day heroin users. That’s 0.5% of the American population. Low number, right? Wrong, because it doubled in two years. That’s a relatively short period of time to double anything. The last time abuse of one drug was this popular, cocaine went from weekend warrior nose candy for shady middle-aged men to coming in rock form in the projects. What heroin does to entire populations should be enough to warrant respect. Heroin also has, of course, a direct correlation with crime and HIV. For reasons still unclear, some people still seem to be in denial about the fact that needle use is as high-risk a way of contracting HIV and other awful diseases as licking a motel bed in the Castro in the 80’s (full disclosure: this has not been scientifically proven). As for crime—well, drug use goes with crime like Tango went with Cash and when it comes to a drug as addictive as heroin, its abusers will stop at nothing to get the cash to buy it.
Heroin doesn’t hide behind local government money laundering laws disguised by the word “medicinal.” Heroin doesn’t cater to black, white, Asian or Hispanic communities exclusively. Heroin, in fact, is the most liberal and accepting drug there is. If it were a person, it’d be an interracial yogi senator from Humboldt County that likes to smoke weed before dinner and murder people after. I respect heroin the same way I respected my dad growing up: he’s always going to be my dad and is capable of scaring the shit out of me and seeming like he’s capable of killing my friends. The difference, of course, is that heroin doesn’t just seem capable of killing; it can and it does.
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