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Where do we stand in the war against opiate drug addiction? People are getting tired of burying their loved ones who have died from opiate prescription or heroin overdoses. They are speaking out about the cause of death, listing heroin overdose in the obituaries. It offers no consolation that the person who meant so much to them became just one among the many heroin statistics.
They want people to remember that the love they felt was for a person they rocked during infancy and nurtured throughout childhood, a love stronger than the addiction that pulled that person under. Zachary Happell Brown of California, age 26, died from a heroin overdose. His photo shows the face of a smiling, happy young man. His obituary tells us he used to sing at the top of his voice while he cut the grass.
The heroin statistics that have been floating across television screens and dotted across magazine pages have been drilled into our heads for a long time now. Yet the message remains a vital one, because heroin is the grimmest Reaper our times have known. The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) has published 2015 Facts and Figures on Opioid Addiction Disease.
Heroin Statistics From ASAM
- In 2014 the National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated the total number of Americans age 12 or older suffering from substance use disorder to be 24.6 million. This number represents 9.4 percent of the American population—including all substances, not just opioids.
- Focusing on heroin statistics, three-quarters of those who become addicted to opioid prescription drugs switch to heroin because it’s a cheaper way to get their high.
- Two Americans die every hour around the clock from prescription opioid overdoses. That amounts to 17,000 annually.
- Another 8,200 Americans die every year from heroin overdoses. That’s just under one per hour.
- In 2013, drug overdose deaths exceeded those caused by car accidents or homicides as the leading cause of injury death for Americans.
What about our youngsters? Heroin statistics tell us that the leaders of tomorrow are experimenting with heroin and pain pills at an alarming rate.
- Each and every day, 2,500 American youths take their first illicit dose of a prescription pain pill.
- Of American high school students, one out of 20 has tried Vicodin, and one out of every 30 students has taken OxyContin.
A search of Legacy.com underscores the staggering heroin statistics for 2015. The families of these heroin victims have hoped that by publicizing their loved ones’ causes of death, they can encourage other addicts and their families to keep fighting the fight against addiction.
- Logan Tyler Flood, age 22, died in New York in March 2015. His family wrote that he fought addiction for eight years “and is now another heartbreaking reminder of the heroin epidemic in this country.”
- Brian A. Fleckinger, age 25, from Ohio died of heroin overdose. His obituary doesn’t specifically state his cause of death but it does request that contributions go to an organization called NKYHatesHeroin.com (Northern Kentucky).
- Bradley Wayne Clark, also age 34 and from Kentucky, died of a heroin overdose, again with contributions referred to NKYHatesHeroin.com
- Heith R. Fitzgerald, age 35, from New Hampshire, died of a heroin overdose. The obituary says he had a “long struggle” with heroin.
- Theodore P. Crupi III, age 27, from New York, died of a heroin overdose.
- Patrick J. Crouse Jr., age 34, of New Jersey, died of a heroin overdose. He was a very colorful and unique person, says his obituary, but it didn’t save him from being one among many heroin statistics. His family explains that some of his emotional issues caused him to self-medicate, which led him to heroin.
- Cameron Kean Crawford, age 34, from California, died of a heroin overdose. His family wrote that he had “corn-colored hair that framed his head like a sun halo” and he “excelled at art and technology.” He died on his 34th birthday.
Dealing With the Dealers
What about the dealers? What punishments are appropriate for those who continue to sell heroin? Courts across the country are passing down sentences that are all over the place. Judges are failing to deliver consistent messages that dealing heroin is unacceptable.
Heze Jones Jr., of Owings Mills, Maryland, ended up with ten years. Initially he was arrested for possession of 82 grams of heroin, which followed an arrest for possessing 34 bags of crack cocaine. He was charged with intent to distribute, possession with intent to distribute near a school, and four counts of possession of paraphernalia. Already violated for five prior counts of possession, he initially received two 15-year sentences, but he “agreed to the state’s version of the facts” in both cases and his sentences were reduced. According to reporter Lauren Lorrichio for the Carroll County Times, five years were suspended from one sentence and ten years from another.
A Philadelphia man’s sentence of 216 years was overturned by a Pennsylvania appeals court. The appeals court justices did not issue a sentence, however, but sent him back to the lower court for re-sentencing. This was the case of Gene “Shorty” Carter, who was running a drug ring while he was serving time in a half-way house for a drug-related crime.
To get an actual stiff sentence like 15 years—a sentence not overturned by the court—you have to commit a really egregious crime, according to Victoria St. Martin, writing for the Washington Post. That was the case with Bryan Christopher Samuel, busted for possession of 100 grams of heroin, who then persisted in his attempts to sell heroin even when he was behind bars.
Prosecutors in Indiana are trying to convince voters to restore tougher sentencing laws with triple the number of deaths linked to opioid prescription drugs and heroin. Statistics like that are frustrating considering that in 2014 a mandatory minimum sentence of six years was reduced to one year for anyone convicted of selling heroin in an attempt to reduce the congestion in prisons.
Treatment for Users
Are you among the many people afraid to read about heroin statistics, and frightened of becoming one of them, who continues using pain pills or heroin? Are you the parent whose adult child visits the family house—to pick at dinner or do their laundry, pale and vacant-eyed—are you afraid you might not see your child again? Be afraid, as the saying goes—be very afraid, because many people are becoming heroin statistics. So many of those who have died from overdoses told their parents over and over that they were going into rehab, and so many of them just kept using over and over until they died.
The most important fact among all heroin statistics is the success of methadone or Suboxone in helping someone get off and stay off heroin. Those medications, prescribed and managed by physicians within licensed, certified medication-assisted therapy programs, and recommended by the federal government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, stop the horrible withdrawal systems and prevent the relentless cravings that drive addicts to keep going out on the streets time after time for one more fix. If you want to get off the merry-go-round of addiction and stop living that life, methadone may be your best last chance.
Here is just one more fact to finish up our heroin statistics. Would you rather wear the price tag for a year of treatment on your wrist, a tag that says $4,700 for a year of methadone treatment? Or would you rather wear a price tag on your toe, a tag that says $7,000, for a one-day funeral? You decide.