Some people believe heroin is no longer a major drug of choice, but that is a misconception. Many narcotic prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin are similar to heroin. Thus, some people who become addicted to the numbing effects of such medications turn to heroin when they cannot get more painkillers from their doctor or cannot afford the “street” prices of diverted prescription drugs.
Society has become more tolerant of “soft” drugs such as marijuana especially as prescription narcotic abuse has increased. But a study 2012 Yale University School of Medicine shows that marijuana may indeed be a “gateway” drug to heroin or similar narcotics. People who experiment with marijuana are 2.5 times more likely to abuse prescription narcotics or turn to street heroin, according to the study.
More babies are being born to mothers addicted to heroin or prescription painkillers. Every hour, at least one American mother delivers a baby suffering from opiate withdrawal. In 2000, about .01 percent of expectant mothers were addicted to heroin or similar drugs. In 2012, that number had increased fivefold.
Statistics on heroin-related deaths are difficult to quantify, since some intravenous users succumb to AIDS or hepatitis contracted through sharing needles. Some heroin abusers die of poisoning due to chemicals that dealers “cut” the drug with. Also, deaths involving one or more drugs including opiates are becoming more common in big cities and small towns alike. Despite increased drug education in schools, about 600,000 American pre-teens and teens still regularly use heroin each year.