Why Are So Many Young Suburban Whites Using Heroin?

The prescription-drug abuse epidemic has caused a seismic shift in opioid addiction.

National Journal
Clara Ritger
May 28, 2014, 12:34 p.m.

Sixty years ago, the typ­ic­al heroin ad­dict was a young black man who lived in the in­ner city and star­ted us­ing the drug when he was 16. Today, the typ­ic­al heroin user is a mid-20s white man or wo­man who lives in the sub­urbs and star­ted his or her habit by ab­us­ing pre­scrip­tion paink­illers, such as Oxy­Con­tin, ac­cord­ing to a new ana­lys­is in JAMA Psy­chi­atry.

“The pat­tern seems to have shif­ted en­tirely,” said lead re­search­er Theodore Cicero, a pro­fess­or at the Wash­ing­ton Uni­versity School of Medi­cine in St. Louis. “It ap­pears that, over time, the sup­ply of pre­scrip­tion opioids be­came a little less abund­ant, the price rose, and the ex­pense for a drug habit meant these people had to shift to something else.”

Cicero and his col­leagues ana­lyzed data from 2,800 pa­tients at more than 150 treat­ment cen­ters na­tion­wide. They found that 75 per­cent of today’s heroin users were in­tro­duced to opioids through pre­scrip­tion drugs, com­pared with re­search find­ings from the 1960s that 80 per­cent of users star­ted their habit with heroin.

The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion clas­si­fied pre­scrip­tion-drug ab­use as an epi­dem­ic a few years ago, but some ad­dicts are shift­ing to heroin be­cause it is cheap­er and easi­er to get.

Mean­while, the demo­graph­ics of oth­er drug users have re­mained re­l­at­ively stable over time, with the ex­cep­tion of marijuana, Cicero said. Marijuana has be­come more per­vas­ive, giv­en the leg­al­iz­a­tion of the drug in Col­or­ado and Wash­ing­ton, and the avail­ab­il­ity of med­ic­al marijuana in a hand­ful of oth­er states. Meth con­tin­ues to be a prob­lem among the rur­al poor, he said, while co­caine has high use among young urb­an and sub­urb­an pro­fes­sion­als.

“When [heroin] was in the cit­ies, it was something we could ig­nore,” Cicero said. “Now it’s a prob­lem of main­stream Amer­ica. It’s hit the middle class.”

He says that the find­ings show that drug policy still must ad­dress the root of the prob­lem: why people take drugs at all.

What We're Following See More »
WILL APPEAR TOGETHER TOMORROW
As Expected, Clinton Goes with Kaine
8 hours ago
THE LATEST
SO MUCH FOR THE RATINGS BUMP
Convention Ratings Same as 2012
15 hours ago
THE LATEST
8,000 DOCUMENTS
Wikileaks Releases Trove of DNC Docs
16 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Wikileaks published more than 8,000 documents purportedly taken from the Democratic National Committee Friday, just days before the start of the party's convention in Philadelphia. The documents included briefings on off-the-record fundraisers and candid photographs."

Source:
YES, WE KAINE?
Clinton Announcing VP Pick Today
19 hours ago
THE LATEST

Hillary Clinton "is widely expected to announce her choice" of vice president "in an email to supporters while on a campaign swing in Florida on Friday afternoon." The consensus: it'll be Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, although Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack are also said to be in the running.

Source:
EARLY BUMP FOR TRUMP?
New Round of Polls Show a Tight Race
23 hours ago
THE LATEST
  • A Rasmussen Reports poll shows Donald Trump ahead of Hillary Clinton, 43%-42%, the fourth week in a row he's led the poll (one of the few poll in which he's led consistently of late).
  • A Reuters/Ipsos survey shows Clinton leading 40%-36%. In a four-way race, she maintains her four-point lead, 39%-35%, with Gary Johnson and Jill Stein pulling 7% and 3%, respectively.
  • And the LA Times/USC daily tracking poll shows a dead heat, with Trump ahead by about half a percentage point.
×