03 Apr Heroin Addiction and the Youth Population in Georgia
Every single state in the country deals with its fair share of public health crisis. While the percentages or frequencies of these issues may vary on a state-by-state basis, there are common challenges that need addressing. In the state of Georgia, one of the rapidly growing threats over the past decade has been substance abuse and drug addiction in the youth population. Despite efforts to curb drug distribution, to educate teenagers and promote drug-free policies, teenage drug abuse is precipitously growing out of hand throughout the country.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 70,000 Georgian teenagers said that they had used at least one illegal substance recreationally within the last year, and of these substances, a sizable percentage of Georgian youths abused opioids in one form or another.
According to the CDC, roughly 66% of drug overdoses were associated with opioids such as Vicodin, Percocet, Heroin, and Fentanyl. Although there is a lot left to be desired from current state studies on the matter, a 2015 study showed that “276,000 adolescents were current nonmedical users of pain relievers, with 122,000 having an addiction to prescription pain relievers.” Of these, an estimated 10% of teenagers had used heroin within the last year.
These numbers may seem shocking, but when reports revealed that two in five teenagers believe that trying heroin once or twice to be neither harmful nor addictive, well then, you will see we have some educational issues to go along with our national epidemic of overprescribing.
While the deaths associated with youth heroin or opioid drug addiction make the headlines, opioid substance abuse has a whole host of negative impacts that result from use including health consequences, as well as increases in the rates of fatalities, crime, and poverty. Youth opioid addiction is one of the most calamitous obstacles Georgia faces, so we as a community should battle this epidemic with eyes wide open.
Studies show that children are less likely to become addicts the longer they wait to try drugs and the more educated they are about the risks associated therein. Therefore, we are beholden to teach, protect and guide them. Further, as parents, we should learn why teenagers use opioids, why they eventually turn to heroin and tools for how you as a parent should steer them in the right direction. Knowing how to tell if your child is abusing heroin is not always easy, but the more informed you are, the sooner you will be able to spot and end this terrible addiction.
Why Heroin Addiction in Georgian Youths Occurs
Our adolescent youth is a crucial period of every person’s journey out of childhood and into that of being an adult. As is natural, adolescents often take this time to challenge the status quo, to begin asserting their own independence separate from that of their parents. This may mean questioning religion, political creeds, philosophy and the rules set forth by society and the authority figures in their lives. While this stage of personal growth can be a fantastic time of chrysalis and flowering, it also involves experimentation along the boundaries of what society deems legal.
Acts of rebellion against the people of power in their lives generally involves doing the exact opposite of what they have been told to do their whole lives. This act of defiance, this stripping of the “chains that bind” and displaying of independence can be an unhealthy thing. Compound this understandable wanderlust with the raging hormones pumping through their developing bodies and couple that with the stress and angst of growing up and it’s fairly easy to see why some Georgian youths fall into opioid abuse and eventually heroin addiction. That said, below are a variety of reasons why teens in Georgia first dabble with opioids.
Reasons Why Youth in Georgia May First Try Opioids
Many Georgian adolescents closer to adulthood have been prescribed Vicodin or Percocet for an injury, be it an accident or a sports-related injury. While these pills are extremely helpful in the immediate relief of pain, the relief and the euphoric high that also comes with use can quickly become addictive. Further, physical dependence can occur whether we like it or not, especially if an opioid is taken repetitively to fight pain.
Studies show that many doctors overprescribe pills, which may leave extra pills around even after the initial pain it is meant to dampen has gone. If you are a parent in Georgia, you should be in charge of how many pain pills they are taking and how often they are taking them. Monitor their behavior and make sure that the pain is high enough that it warrants a pain pill. Pain can be a good thing and should be something that we all learn to bare, so if it is not severe, Tylenol or another option may be a better alternative. If they are fully recovered and have excess pills, you should either flush them or lock them away.
Feel the high
Sad as it is, some teens in Georgia simply want to feel the high. They may have tried other drugs, maybe alcohol, tobacco, weed, or cocaine. They liked how those things made them feel, so they heard pain pills are even better. Perhaps a friend mixes pain pills or liquid hydrocodone syrup in a drink or in a joint. Some people are simply pleasure seekers and move on from one rush to another.
Adolescents are often more curious and perceptive than we give them credit. Their young brains are rapidly developing, and this involves processing information in a brand new light. Humans are inquisitive creatures; we push boundaries and regularly strive past seemingly insurmountable obstacles. There is probably no more significant time of curiosity than this stage of growth and part of this means that believing requires testing.
Maybe they have seen their friends or peers do it, or have heard stories about how good it felt. While they may have been told that opiates or heroin are bad by authority figures, they want to know what the buzz is about. They might want to know why their friend can do it and have such a great time. In their minds, they may consider that perhaps it really is not such a bad thing and adults are just exaggerating.
Times of dreary monotony can be a good thing, a time to let the imagination roam. That said, teenagers, especially in today’s technological culture of constant stimulation and instant gratification are not great at dealing with being bored. While some may be lamb happy and content with time on their hands and nothing on their calendar, others struggle and often times will do things they regularly wouldn’t out of sheer boredom.
Some teens, especially in the summer months when left unsupervised and without any sort of guidance may mosey along to their parent’s medicine cabinet and see if anything in there might spice things up a bit. Encourage your teens to use moments of boredom as times to think, to read, to create. If they are not fans of such activities, perhaps encourage them to join a sports league, a club, a youth group, or a community service team.
They observe that their friends are doing it or have done it and rather than stand out from the crowd, they join in. They want to be cool, to be liked, to be accepted and to feel like they are a part of something.
They not only see their friends do it, but their friends actively encourage or verbally bully them into joining the fun. Studies show that Georgian teenagers’ largest fear is social ostracization from peers. They crave acceptance and are often willing to cave in to pressure rather than be removed from the pack. As a parent, it is your responsibility to know who your kids are friends with and to be aware of those kid’s characters.
Besides that which comes from their peers, children are under an inordinate amount of stress both real and imagined (if not over magnified due to hormones). They are stressed to perform in school, in sports, in relationships. Sometimes the pressure or stress can become unbearable, and they turn to opioids as a form of release.
Pills allow them to relax, to cast their worries aside, to not feel anything, or to feel the euphoria and pleasure that inevitably comes and helps them forget their other worries. Teaching your child how to manage stress in a healthy manner through a combination of exercise and dialogue is vital. Encouraging them to speak their mind or share their burdens could prevent them from turning to other means of relieving their emotional pain.
Reasons Why Georgian Teens Turn to Heroin
As mentioned above, the vast, vast majority (more than 90%) of teenagers do not use heroin without first using a painkiller of some shape or form. Generally, this next step occurs for a couple of the following reasons:
Chasing the ultimate high
There is no commonly used drug that has powerful euphoric effects on the brain and central nervous system like heroin. It is, and this is said without any intention of glamorization, the ultimate high. Teenagers hear that what they feel from the pills is nothing compared to H. When they receive this information, that curiosity in conjunction with the addicted kicks in and they not only want to feel that, they need to feel it. In which case they figure, if they have done opioids before, what could be so dangerous about heroin?
The doctor stops prescribing
Sometimes pain prescriptions come with refills, and certain teenagers can grow at least somewhat dependent faster than they can finish the first bottle. Couple that with the fact that there are plenty of unscrupulous doctors and right there is a recipe for addiction. So, the teen gets hooked on the pills, but eventually, the script can no longer be renewed for some reason or another. After that, the only source of opioids lies in the form of heroin.
While not as common of an issue since most teenagers do not have full-time jobs, if Georgian teenagers are personally buying pain pills from drug dealers or friends, they are likely doing so at an exorbitant rate. Even opioid addicts with full-time adult jobs have a difficult time of paying the thousands of dollars required to regularly fund their habit. heroin costs a fraction of the price of a Vicodin pill and packs a punch that is exponentially stronger. So, if you are talking bang for your buck, heroin ends up being the cheaper choice that many unfortunately make.
Masking of pain
For some teenagers, the physical or mental anguish seems too much to bear. They turn to pills, but they’re not enough. They want more. They hear that heroin is the great silencer, the one that can level stress to the ground and deliver the ultimate euphoria, and they use it for that very reason; to cope.
Parent’s medicine cabinet empties
They already have thoroughly raided their parent’s pill stock for prescription drugs. Perhaps they even took the next step and stole pills from friends’ parents. Eventually, that too runs dry or becomes too difficult to manage. They want more but do not have a doctor, nor medicine cabinet available, so they turn to a dealer.
On top of the ridiculous costs, once the body has adapted and grown accustomed to opioids in the central nervous system, it requires increasingly larger numbers of pills to feel the same high. The interval which one can go becomes shorter and shorter, and the satisfaction from a single pill diminishes. Many teenagers see heroin as the logical next step in their drug progression.
Heroin abuse and overdoses in Georgian youths have increased every single year for the last decade. Because of this, as parents, it is our responsibility to be wary of the potential dangers of teenage opioid abuse. If you have a teenager who struggles with heroin addiction, there are a variety of residential and outpatient detox rehab centers that are available throughout the state. These clinics will help you and your child confront their addiction before it is too late.
If your child needs substance abuse treatment, George Drug Detox is here to help. Call us today to fight your child’s drug abuse once and for all with our heroin detox and addiction treatment.
“Georgia Adolescent Substance Abuse Facts.” HHS.gov. 2015. 14 Mar. 2019. https://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/facts-and-stats/national-and-state-data-sheets/adolescents-and-substance-abuse/georgia/index.html
“Prescription Opioids and Heroin Epidemic in Georgia.” Substance Abuse Research Alliance (SARA) 2016. 14 Mar. 2019. http://www.senate.ga.gov/sro/Documents/StudyCommRpts/OpioidsAppendix.pdf
Chakravarthy, Bharath. “Adolescent Drug Abuse – Awareness & Prevention.” NCBI. Jun. 2013. 14 Mar. 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3734705/