The hardest part about the heroin epidemic in this country is getting those who think “not in my family” to understand that it happens to ANY family. It happens to high school and college athletes – the “good kids” — and it occurs in higher numbers in our adult population over age 50. Why? Because painkillers are prescribed to injured athletes and adults with injuries and chronic pain, and painkillers are a gateway drug to heroin.
Let’s focus today on adolescent athletes and how an injury can lead to addiction. A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that young athletes are 50 percent more likely to abuse painkillers. Just yesterday CBS News ran a story about college high school wrestler Robert King who was prescribed the painkiller Percocet for his broken foot and who just a few years later found himself addicted to heroin.
According to CBS, “King’s story is not an uncommon one. As the heroin epidemic continues to rage throughout the country, high school athletes are falling victim to addiction in alarming numbers.”
I have written blogs about painkiller and heroin addiction for the past year and the need in this country for more awareness, and I applaud families who are opening up about their loved one’s addiction. Now, even in obituaries families are candidly disclosing the cause of death as a drug addiction. Families are not trying to scare anyone. On the contrary, they are helping to promote awareness that just may save a life.
In the CBS story, Jack Riley, Deputy Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), emphasized that addiction cuts across every demographic group. He told CBS, “Heroin never discriminates, and athletes are no different. This dangerous drug has become a powerful weapon of mass destruction for drug addicts, some of whom are athletes who first became addicted to painkillers while rehabilitating from sports injury.”
So what should parents do? Most important is to educate yourself about the growing painkiller and heroin epidemic. If your school or community is offering drug awareness education forums — go! Encourage your friends to go with you too. Learn about Narcan™ (naloxone) an opiate antidote. Opioids include heroin and prescription pain pills like morphine, codeine, oxycodone, methadone and Vicodin. Many local communities are training first responders and school staff in the use of Narcan.
Trust your instincts. If you think something is off with your teen, you’re probably right. Ask questions and get answers. If you have a child on pain medication, ask the doctor about it. In the end, remember this is an epidemic in this country so do what you can do to prevent it from spreading to your family. Knowledge is power – always a good place to start!
You can make a difference in the growing heroin epidemic. Blog by Dr. Henry Paul
He died of a Heroin overdose! Blog by Dr. Henry Paul
Information contained in this blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription.