An old drug is making a new comeback, and the home medicine cabinet often is the gateway.
Heroin, a pop culture star in the 1970s, is back for an encore. According to the Indiana Prevention Resource Center (IPRC), 2.1 percent of Hoosier high school seniors have ever used heroin, 50 percent higher than the national average.
Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington has seen heroin cases rise 600 percent in the last five years.
“Heroin now is so cheap and is so readily available,” he said.
Natalie (last name withheld as she undergoes drug rehabilitation) agreed. “If you get with the other drug users in your school, you’re just bound to find it.”
Natalie’s drug abuse started in the family medicine cabinet. “I did prescription drugs for a long time before I started doing heroin,” Natalie admitted. “I never thought I would do heroin ever, but I was taking way too many pills, and it became way too expensive. Going from prescription pills to heroin, it’s way cheaper.”
According to IPRC, Indiana has the nation’s second highest rate of high school students abusing prescription drugs at 21 percent. The top source of those drugs: buying pills from a friend.
Cierra (last name withheld) said her brother Jesse started smoking marijuana, which led to prescription pills, which led to heroin, which led to his death. “My brother told me you’re always chasing your first high,” Cierra related. “Your first high is the best high you’re ever going to have, and that’s why you continue to do harder and harder drugs. That’s why kids progress from marijuana, to pills, to heroin because they’re looking for a better high.”
While prevention efforts offer no guarantees, IPRC recommends that parents, educators and youth workers openly communicate with children and teens about what they hear from friends, see in the community, and ways they can resist temptations to take drugs.
Parents can help prevent prescription drug abuse by continually counting the legally prescribed pills at home and keeping the medicine bottle out of reach, even hidden. Caring adults also can watch for warning signs of drug abuse including depression, lack of motivation, constant lying about friends and whereabouts, severe weight loss and frequent tiredness and sleeping.
Natalie’s mom, Jennifer, warns parents to watch for drug abuse, including heroin. “I falsely thought that I was exempt from this,” Jennifer said. “You think of a junkie. You think of something you heard of back in the ‘70s. You don’t think of a middle class child who now is in school.”
Harrington added, “Youth today face this on a daily basis, this temptation to use drugs. Heroin doesn’t care about your race or your religious preference or your position in life. It’s across the spectrum.”
President & CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute