America’s Addiction to Opioids: Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse

Our nation is amid an unprecedented opioid epidemic, the worst drug crisis in American history.  Opioid addiction includes not only the abuse of heroin, but also the misuse and abuse of prescription opioid pain medications. Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illicit drug heroin as well as prescription pain relievers oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl and others.  The face of addiction has changed dramatically over the last few years, to include millions of soccer moms, teachers, nurses, dads and many other walks of life. The epidemic of addiction didn’t happen overnight.  Over the course of more than a decade, it has grown into a problem destroying lives across the nation, regardless of age, race, wealth or location.  Addiction is a primary, chronic and relapsing brain disease characterized by an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.  

An estimated 52 million Americans use prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons at least once in their lifetimes – with some using prescription drugs for recreational purposes.   People fail to realize that these drugs have the same addictive potential as street drugs and the same ability to cause an overdose. Every day, over 1,000 people are treated in the emergency room for misusing prescriptions opioids.   In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids, which is more than enough to give every American adult their own bottle of pills.    Dependency on these drugs may be considered a chronic, relapsing medical condition, causing neuro-chemical and molecular changes in the brain. Even when prescribed for pain and used appropriately, pain pills can cause an increasing detrimental tolerance toward the drug.  With attempts to stop, the person may experience distressing physical withdrawal symptoms.  Long- term use of opiates can produce addiction, and overuse can cause overdose and potentially death. Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, on an average day, 78 people die from opioid related overdose.  

Many individuals begin their path of addiction to opioids through experimental or recreational use. This may quickly develop into daily usage of the substance. Some users progress to intravenous use or snorting medications to get a stronger, more immediate effect from them. Heroin usage has increased across the US among men and women, most age groups and all income levels.  Four in five new heroin users started out misusing prescription pain killers.  It is estimated that 23% of peoples who are using heroin develop an addiction.   Other individuals begin their addiction after being treated for an acute or chronic medical condition.  This individual finds that they crave the drug even when not in pain and cannot stop even when alternative treatments are presented.  Some individuals feel the drug gives them energy, improves their mood, or helps numb emotional pain and now has come to believe that the drug is necessary to function daily.  

Individuals, regardless of how their addiction began, may discover the reason for continued use of these drugs is no longer the same as when they started, but now is to avoid the “sickness’ that occurs because of withdrawal when the person tries to stop. Addiction begins at the point at which a person loses control over a mood-altering substance.  Once a person loses control, they almost never regain the ability to regulate the problematic substance or behavior without support No matter what the cause of the opioid addiction may be, these individuals are in critical need of help.

Focus Treatment Centers offers Suboxone Treatment, providing inpatient medical detoxification program for those struggling with opioid addiction. Suboxone is an effective, safe medication approved by the FDA for use in the treatment of opioid addiction. Suboxone relieves withdrawal symptoms, reduces cravings and blocks the effects of other opioids. It can only be prescribed by physicians specially trained in its usage and licensed specifically by the DEA.  

When you choose to work with us, we will help you understand the detoxification process so that you can feel confident about your choice.  We are aware making a commitment to begin treatment can be very difficult, but we are here to support you in your new way of living. It is time to Focus on your addiction.

1 American Society of Addiction Medicine. (2011). Public Policy Statement: Definition of Addiction. Chevy Chase, MD: American Society of Addiction Medicine. addiction_long_4-11.pdf?sfvrsn=2
3 CDC: http//
4 CDC. (2014). Opioid Painkiller Prescribing, Where you Live Makes a Difference, Ga:  Centers for Disease and Prevention. Available at:
5.CDC National Vital Statistics System
6. Jones DM. Heroin use and heroin use risk behaviors among nonmedical users of prescription opioid pain reliever – United States, 2002-2004 and 2008-2010. Drug and Alcohol Depend. 2103 Sep 1;132 (1-2): 95-100. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.01.007. Epub 2013 Feb 12
7 National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Drug Facts: Heroin. Bethesda, MD: National Institute on Drug Abuse.