Why Heroin is an Epidemic Among College Students

Why Heroin is an Epidemic Among College Students

Heroin has long been thought of as a drug abused by a specific group of people. What may surprise many is that heroin is becoming an increasingly common drug in cities, suburban areas and college campuses alike. Men and women of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and educations can become addicted to heroin. Discover what is behind the heroin epidemic growing on college campuses across the United States.

College Students Not Immune to the Dangers of Heroin Use and Addiction

There are many preconceived notions about why and how heroin is used in America. In decades past, heroin was largely consumed in inner cities, and its users were older as well as poorer, on the whole. Even today, many people associate heroin use with the homeless or impoverished. Today, however, heroin can be found in all environments, including college campuses.

In the past decade, heroin users have doubled in the United States. The fastest growing group is non-Hispanic white females, who are using heroin more than ever before. Heroin is used by men as well as women, and it is no longer a drug linked to income level or education.

College students usually are among some of the American residents with the highest family income levels and highest education levels in the country. However, heroin is still a problem. Therefore, it is important to understand what is bringing the heroin epidemic to college campuses and what can be done to stop it in the future.

Heroin Use Normalized on College Campuses

One of the most alarming aspects of the heroin epidemic is how it has become normalized. Over 19 percent of surveyed college students said that to them, heroin use on campus was typical. This is shocking for a number of critical reasons, including the threat of normalization, reduced visibility of consequences and the risk of growth.

Many people around the world see heroin as a dangerous and addictive drug. This is important, because it is true! Awareness, education and a respect for the tremendous risks of use can deter many people from trying it in the first place. If heroin seems like a normal habit on college campuses, then more students might be willing to try it.

Heroin use might also be considered normal on college campuses if the consequences and side effects of addiction aren’t visible. It is key that college students be taught the incredible dangers of heroin addiction. All too often, college health and wellness programs don’t include drug addiction awareness in curriculum because it isn’t seen as a viable threat in higher education. Clearly, however, that is a mistake.

Fighting against the normalization of heroin is necessary to prevent its spread. If nearly one-fifth of college students think that heroin use is normal, that puts millions of students at risk. By showing that heroin use is far from normal, and is in fact devastating for a number of reasons, college students might begin to see heroin use for what it truly is–a devastating addiction.

Prescription Painkillers a Common Stepping Stone to Heroin Use

The normalization of heroin use on campus is one factor in the growing heroin epidemic among college students. The other major factor is the growing use of prescription painkillers. As many as half of college students who are addicted to heroin first used or were addicted to prescription painkillers.

Prescription painkiller abuse is a worrisome trend. Unlike heroin, prescription painkillers do have legitimate medical uses, although millions of people in the United States use them incorrectly or for recreational purposes. Many of these prescription painkillers contain opiates, which is the same primary ingredient found in heroin.

College students might abuse or rely on prescription painkillers to mask the pain after a sports injury or just to deliver a high to handle the stress of academic life. Whatever the reason for taking these prescription drugs, the result over time can be an increased tolerance. That means that in a few months, users will need to procure larger and larger amounts of narcotics to feel the same effects.

The cost of prescription painkillers is significant, especially for college students. As a result, some students turn to alternative sources of opiates. One of the least regulated, most widely available and cheapest forms is heroin. This means that most heroin users don’t start using heroin just because they are curious about the drug, but because they are already chemically dependent on a similar version in the form of prescription painkillers.

The Challenges of Heroin Addiction Unique to College Students

Recovering from a heroin addiction is a challenge for anyone. For college students, it can present some unique obstacles that have to be addressed in order to embrace lifelong sobriety. Issues like combining rehab and education, abstaining from other substances and choosing ongoing care are all vital.

One challenge unique to college students is trying to fit recovery into a busy academic schedule. One approach can be to choose detox and addiction treatment over the summer holidays, when many colleges have up to three months off. Whatever schedule works best, it is important to prioritize recovery over anything else, including exams, papers or classes.

Another challenge is that many college students stop abusing heroin but still want to partake of other harmful and potentially addictive substances. In many cases, moderation simply won’t be an option after addiction treatment. If heroin was a problem, students should also avoid other common campus drugs, including marijuana. In addiction, drinking alcohol is not recommended, as it can become a slippery slope that leads back to drug abuse.

Ongoing care is a critical part of recovering from addiction, and it is necessary for relapse prevention. College students, unfortunately, are less likely than many other groups to participate in group meetings or continuing care. Stressing the importance of this process is critical for college students hoping to recover permanently from a heroin addiction.

Heroin is a problem across the country, and college campuses are not exempt from the epidemic. By exploring the rise of heroin use and addiction in higher education, it may be possible to take steps to prevent it from spreading further.