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What Can We Do About the Heroin Overdose Epidemic?

June 24, 2014

A striking new dimension of our nation’s ongoing opioid epidemic is the escalating number of deaths from heroin overdose. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 4,102 people died as an unintended consequence of heroin overdoses in 2011 (the most recent year for which data are available), compared to 2,789 deaths in 2010—a 47 percent increase in a single year. Heroin overdose deaths had risen somewhat over most of the preceding years (except for 2009-2010, when they actually declined), but the general upward trend had been more gradual, so these numbers come as a wake-up call.

For a few years, NIDA and other Federal partners have been sounding the alarm over the rise in heroin use, particularly among people with addictions to prescription opioids who switch to heroin because it is cheaper and easier to obtain. Half a million Americans are now addicted to heroin, and four out of five recent heroin initiates had previously used prescription opioids non-medically. Public light on this problem was shed earlier this year by the heroin-overdose death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who had reportedly begun using heroin after having developed a prescription drug addiction. But the scope and impact of the problem in our society is revealed in CDC’s population-wide numbers, which I discussed last week at a White House Summit on the opioid epidemic. In 2011, 11 Americans died every day from heroin overdose—nearly one person every 2 hours. (The same year, 14,091 people died from accidental overdoses of prescription opioids, also a figure that continues to rise steadily; see below.)

NIDA has actively pushed research on an easy-to-use intranasal formulation of naloxone, a drug that can save lives in the event of opioid overdose. We have also taken various measures to improve the education of clinicians in pain treatment and opioid prescribing and created resources (NIDAMED) to guide doctors in detecting and addressing prescription opioid abuse in their patients. But we and other government agencies must do much more to address one of the major drivers of the overdose epidemic: underlying opioid use disorders. Particularly, we must push for wider adoption and implementation of existing medication-assisted treatments (MATs) for opioid addiction.

Last month I coauthored a “Perspective” in the New England Journal of Medicine on the severe underutilization of these treatments, along with CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, Pamela S. Hyde, Administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and Stephen S. Cha of the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The opioid antagonist naltrexone and maintenance therapies using the agonists buprenorphine or methadone have proven effective at helping patients recover from opioid addiction and at reducing overdoses.  Moreover, all three treatments have been shown to improve social functioning, reduce criminal activity, and lessen the risk of transmitting infectious diseases like HIV. They are also cost-effective. But less than half of private-sector treatment programs have adopted MATs, and even in programs that offer them, only 34.4% of patients receive medications. Policy-related hindrances and limitations in the area of insurance coverage are among the barriers to wider MAT adoption, as is a shortage of physicians trained and qualified to deliver these medications. But another major barrier is attitudinal—namely, lingering beliefs (even among some staff and managers at opioid treatment clinics) that maintenance treatments simply replace one addiction with another. When maintenance treatment is offered, it is often at an insufficient dose or duration, leading to treatment failure and reinforcing the erroneous belief that medication is a poor approach.

Implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will help with some of the insurance coverage issues, but only by transcending old prejudices and misconceptions about opioid treatment (often rooted in stigma) can we ensure they are used and used effectively. We will not reduce the unacceptable numbers of overdose deaths from prescription opioids and, increasingly, heroin, without realizing that addiction—and failure to treat it—lies at the heart of the problem.

Trends in overdose deaths 1999-2011, of significance from 2006 to 2011, opiod deaths up 28%, cocaine deaths down 35%, heroin deaths up 119%

Source: National Center for Health Statistics/CDC, National Vital Statistics Report, Final death data for each calendar year (June 2014). * includes opium

This page was last updated June 2014



Dr. Volkow, I am currently putting together an educational Power Point on Heroin and I would really appreciate the latest statistics and known physical damage that is caused to the body by the drug,
Thank You
Jesse M. Crosby


As one who believes in fighting the problem BEFORE it becomes a problem, it is imperative for our society to get their heads out of the sand and place more importance on the EDUCATION on the dangers of drugs! As I've said for years now and continue to say, such education should be implemented into the school system for students as young as 7 years to students who reach the high school level!

It is totally cost-effective to implement such education in that teachers are already being paid to teach and it could be implemented immediately! Only after such education is implemented can society realize unprecedented declines in the abuse of drugs, (which include heroine), as soon as a decade after implementation! There is no other way outside of repetitive education on the dangers of drugs, to effectively seek actual declines of its abuse!

Though it is a good thing and necessary to treat those who are addicted and waging personal battles against their own drug-abuse, there should be an honest effort to effectively fight a war on drugs and that is, as I've said, to invoke a repetitive system of education on the dangers of drugs, to ALL students who attend school in the United States!

MAT Procedures

I applaud current efforts to address the opioid epidemic in this country. I believe awareness and education are the greatest tools to prevent and treat this alarming trend. As a recovering addict myself, I understand how difficult this battle can be. I'm currently participating in a Drug Court program in Cuyahoga County where heroin has become incredibly pervasive in the city at its suburbs. Every week I hear of yet another overdose due to opioid abuse, many of which I've come to consider friends.

My views on (agonist) MATs are mixed. (I would like to state that I am not a trained addiction specialist or behavioral scientist. However, as a recovering addict and psychology student, I have a broad understanding of this disease. I regularly read scientific journals, NIDA-advocated Web-sites, blogs and other related materials.) I agree with the sentiment that using drugs like buprenorphine and methadone (both incredibly powerful opioids) are simply replacing one addiction for another. As an addict, particularly of the opiate variety, it's difficult to arrest addictive behaviors. Many addicts I know participating in MAT programs sell their medications to raise money to purchase heroin and/or other illicitly obtained prescription opiates/opioids. Also, medication abuse is common among patients. Comprehensive treatment when utilizing MATs is paramount. Intensive residential and community-based programs ought to be prescribed in tandem with the medications to increase the likelihood of positive outcomes. Even then, I believe (agonist) MATs should be used sparingly, and for relatively short periods of time; six to twelve months at most. Additionally, strict medical supervision should be employed. The reality is, heroin addicts are crafty, cunning, and sneaky individuals. We often find ways to manipulate and exploit opportunities.

My personal situation involves the use of Naltrexone; a complete opioid antagonist. I participated in a 90 day residential program, and continue to attend an outpatient program and regular 12-step meetings. I frequent treatment facilities to constantly remind me of the outcome should I return to active use, that is, if I'm lucky enough to make it out alive and back into treatment. I reside at a sober-living house and have much support from my peers. Random drug screenings and frequent interactions with the court and its agents keeps me accountable. The Drug Court program is lengthy and intensive, and much support is offered. My treatment program is comprehensive to say the least, and for an addict like me necessary!

Conversely speaking, I can understand the desire to advocate for long-term use of MATs. Considering the increasing opioid-related deaths, criminal activities, and general negative social impacts, MATs have their benefits. When used in the more desperate of circumstances, and under close supervision, application of these drugs is a much better option than the alternatives. With continued research and observation, and greater understanding of the brain and its related disorders, hopefully responsible and effective dispensing and use of MATs will help to abate this epidemic.

Despite evidence that (agonist) MATs are effective at combating opiate/opioid addiction, I remain firm in my belief that medications merely treat the symptoms of the disease, rather than the cause, and that talk-therapies and peer-related programs offer the best prognosis for recovering from addiction. I believe that it is too early to determine whether or not [MAT] therapies will have any sustainable benefits upon the general opiate-dependent population, and that further observation is necessary to determine their effectiveness in the long-term.

Are MAT's Treating the Problem or the Symptoms?

I am one of those struggling opiate addicts that believes MAT's treat the symptoms of a much deeper problem. Addiction in my opinion is centered in my thinking but manifests in my behaviors. Medications although helpful for some have never worked for me for an extended period of time. If I'm to stay clean I need to change my thinking and that only happens with therapy and 12 step meetings. This is just my experience,


Hi, I am the mother of a 19 year old heroin addict. I am a mortgage processor with a local mortgage company. I am not a doctor, counselor, or psychologist. But I will tell you that I seem to understand how this drug works more than the counselors, or treatment facilities that are currently in place here in MN. I do not understand what is being done, and I would like to help and I have many good ideas that can be implemented in these programs for opiate or heroin addicts. Things need to change dramatically. A 50 year old alcoholic with a wife and 3 kids is completely different that a 19 year old heroin addict. My son alone has racked up over 100,000 grand in bills for treatment this year alone. Why are we shuffling these kids around without looking in to what center they are being put into? These addicts have no money, phone, car, anything by the time they have reached treatment. And most of them cant get in for weeks because "heroin withdraw doesnt kill you". I think more one on one interaction and several activities need to be done during the small amount of time that is given.

to help my son

My son has been a drug addict since he was fifteen,,,hooked on oxytocin, a long road is now ,thirty nine,has been on the drug,,,,can't remember the name now, any way it's hard to get unless you have money and can go to the Doctor,,,,,I was told if he can go seven days with out any drug at all there is an ejection he can get that last a month,,,,,,and what does he do in that seven days,,,fall apart, I know this he won't make it,,,,,Please help, any information, signed muther

Very sorry to hear about your

Very sorry to hear about your son’s addiction. There are several medications that can be effective for treating opioid addiction, but no matter what, it is a difficult problem, often requiring support from family and friends and other sorts of treatment to help a person regain their life. It sounds like you are referring to a medication called vivitrol, which is given by injection once a month, and is an opioid blocker. In a person who is addicted to opioids or taking methadone or buprenorphine, it is important that they are drug free before getting this injection, so that they do not experience severe withdrawal symptoms in response to it. If that is what you and your son decide is the best approach to take, then your son should be under medical care if he is going to be withdrawn from his current medication. What is most important is that your son can get to a treatment provider who is experienced in working with people who suffer from opioid addiction so that you can learn about the various options. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services administration has a site that provides information about treatment programs by location --including those that provide methadone and buprenorphine as well as vivitrol. NIDA also has a brief publication that explains some of the different medications used to treat opioid addiction. Please don’t give up—people do recover even from the most difficult addictions.


My daughter started smoking at 14. Alcohol was next, then pot, then experimenting with nearly everything out there. We were able to help her through college and thought we were on the way to wholeness. Wrong! Shortly after graduation and starting a great job she reconnected with a past boy friend who was a heroin addict and it didn't take long for her to join him. Now, 21 years later, we have spent thousands on treatment, been defrauded and had the theft of thousands more. We have endured many overdoses, HepC, weeks visiting the hospital, many nights looking for her, days not knowing where she was and if she was alive. We spent hours in courtrooms, months of visits at jail, letters from prison, joined NAMI, participated in "family" drug education and suffered more heartache and stress related illnesses than I knew existed.
I knew something wasn't right from birth, she was awake the entire time in the hospital and slept very little the first years of life. If she was awake she was crying, which was most of the time since she slept very little. Before she was 2 I knew she was hyperactive, but the doctors did not believe me. She was a danger to herself and others I had to watch her like a hawk to keep her alive.
She had her first mental breakdown at 11 and was diagnosed with mental illness a few years later. At 14 she was anorexic, a cutter, had endured being raped and suffered great depression. While in college she was diagnosed as bi-polar, severe anxiety disordered and of course ADHD which we already knew.
Heroin use has made the mental illness much worse. The only program that ever made a difference was a dual-diagnoses rehab which was $3,000.00 for 30 days of treatment. I believe if she had been able to stay longer she would have been able to make it.
A sad commentary of our society is - if you have money you can get good health, if you are rich there are many options, if you are middle class you only going to get what is affordable - it's not much!
A bright, intelligent, talented, beautiful life being wasted. My heart stays perpetually broken. My prayer is for her to outlive us!

Very sorry about the

Very sorry about the devastating times your family has had to endure. We hope that you and your daughter will not give up—although it is terribly difficult, there are treatments and services geared for people with dual diagnoses that can be effective. But as you point out adequate and long term treatment must be available for people of all incomes, and this is something that we hope will improve as the Affordable Care Act and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act are implemented.

Methadone maintenance

I am currently on methadone maintenance and would like to share some of the ways the program is still stigmatized. Even thought the program is sanctioned by the state and monitored by I believe the DEA, the local police of the town where my clinic is located, put up a road block coming out of the clinic about 4 months ago . They proceeded to threaten us with DUI's. While only one person received a DUI, I believe they did this to make sure we knew we werent welcome. There was some protest among the residents in town concerning the clinic; the belief was that it would bring drugs into their town. I found this to be particularly funny since I used to go to their town when I was actively using because it is peopled with addicts. People think everything is okay as long as its not right in front of their face. Anyway, I dont think law enforcement is made aware of the effects of methadone. Contrary to popular belief, methadone does not make one feel "high". All it does is block the way for heroin into our dopamine receptors. If a persons dose is too high, it might make them overly tired. This is monitored prodigiously by clinic staff. I think all physicians and law enforcement should be made aware of effects of the drugs most used by people. I find it hard to believe that the doctors prescribing pain medication are unaware of the affects of what they are prescribing. Almost every addict I know, including myself, started off using pain medications. I would also like to state that our penal system does not offer any MAT's in jails or prisons. Wouldent one think this is where is would be most useful?


My son is a polysubstance abuser/heroin addict so using maintenance doesn't help with the other drugs. He abused suboxone and injected it. His doctor gave him too much and he was like a zombie. I suspect he was also selling it. One needs to be vey stable and well monitored with counseling for MAT to work and it has side effects just like other opiods. As a family member, I think you need to be careful before calling for mass use of this harm reduction. It is not a silver bullet. That is why many treatment centers I talked to did not use it except for detox. It may help some people but not people like my son. Also, the withdrawal is said to be worse and longer than heroin. The addiction treatment protocols for doctors involve long term monitoring and no opiod replacement because doctors have to be clear thinking and the opiods cloud thinking. What about vivitrol which is naltrexone? It can be given in injections in early recovery which stops the problem of not taking it and can also be used as a patch.

There are now several options

There are now several options for patients addicted to opioids including methadone, buprenorphine (Suboxone, Subutex), and depot naltrexone (Vivitrol). Patients and families should work with their health care professional to determine what treatment is most effective for individual patients--including the value of non-medication approaches, such as behavioral therapies and support services.

My 21 year old son is a recovering heroin addict.

I agree wholeheartedly that suboxone is not for everyone. I was paying nearly $1,000 per month for doctor visits and the drug itself, only to find that my son, like many others, was injecting half is dose (all he needed to keep from going into withdrawal) and selling and trading the remainder for cash and drugs he wanted to use instead. Since he was bringing IV drug use and trafficking into a home where I was raising a minor child, I had no choice but to make him leave.

My son is 21. He left for college three years ago this month and returned to us spring of that year addicted to heroin.

He was a 4.0 student who had never missed a curfew. We knew he was experimenting with alcohol as many teenagers do, but it came as a surprise to find that he had been trading his ADHD medication in the halls of his public high school, 2 to 1, for oxycontin. He became addicted to opiates senior year, unbeknownst to us. Pills aren't like alcohol. They're tiny, easy to conceal, don't leave a smell on your breath, and produce drowsiness and a tendency to sleep late (not uncommon in teenage boys). As his dependance increased, he began to crush the pills and snort them to afford the amount he needed. After he went to college, he began crushing and injecting them. Not long after that, he discovered that he could buy heroin for $5 a bag, and the rest is history.

The past three years have been an unmitigated nightmare for my family. There are no clear answers, no clear pathway to helping a young adult regain his footing after addiction to hard drugs. During one calendar year, my son was in rehab 4 separate times and had two confinements in mental hospitals and a two-week stay in jail, all as a consequence of his addiction. He overdosed multiple times, woke up once on a respirator after a severe seizure, and nearly lost an arm and a foot to abcess. He has been homeless for months at a time, in and out of expensive, unregulated "sober houses" in-between. Because of the inevitable criminal element of obtaining illegal drugs, he can no longer live in our state due to pursuit by gang members. Fortunately, we believe he has finally turned a corner. He has an honest job that he likes, is self-supporting, has been clean for months, and is living independently.

We are a middle class family. My husband is a registered architect and I am a medical professional. We met at Duke University and my husband's advanced degree is from Harvard. We've been married for 27 years and bought the home our child grew up in before he was born. Our child was raised in the church, and attended top-rated public schools.

Thanks to generous work benefits, we were able to afford our portion of his re-hab expenses. Once he was out of re-hab, the tab for "sober house" living often exceeded the cost of our monthly mortgage, but we were fortunate enough to be able to absorb that, too. It chills our blood to think about how a low-income family would ever be able to help a child with the same problems; we know that most underpriviliged addicts in the same boat would be much more likely to end up in jail or dead.

This problem is real and growing. We attend a support group whose numbers swell with each passing week as parents just like us show up when their children are arrested for breaking-and-entering, admitted to hospitals, or overdose in their own bedrooms. This is no longer a trend or an epidemic, it is a plague that is threatening to significantly impact an entire generation, not to mention their parents and offspring. Innocent bystanders within the general population are victimized with burglary, robbery, and murder by young people desperate to obtain drugs.

I feel that it's time for a federal solution to a national problem.

1)All drug-related cases should be remanded to an aggressive drug court program. Drug courts are a growing proven solution to diverting adolescents from a life of crime into a path of recovery. But too often, the solution of patchwork drug testing (often unsupervised testing, which invites fraud) and scant parole supervision, together with simple "community service" assignments leave parents struggling to manage life with an addicted dependant day to day. Parents lose jobs juggling trips to doctors, 12-step meetings, parole officers, and community service assignments. With criminal records, addicts are often unemployable, leaving them with hours and days of unstructured time and depriving them of the self-esteem a job well done provides. A family with younger children can actually lose custody of them to protective services if their older addicted child relapses in the home, which is an ever-present danger.

2) Detox and 30 day rehab programs need to be made available on demand through Medicaid without cost to those that need them. Once those programs end, addicts should be housed in a dorm-like facility and assigned jobs under supervision in the surrounding community or within their compound to give their days structure and teach them basic work skills. In this setting, job skills could be taught, basic life skills like job-seeking, money management, and household management could be learned, and 12-step recovery meetings could be held daily on-site. These activities, bound within a strict daily schedule, would give the recovering addict the structure and skills necessary to make a better recovering and transition to the outside world. A GED program could be made available to those addicts that need to complete their high school degrees. Drug-addicted parents would have a time and place to recover while their children went to foster care.

There are small-scale privately funded programs similar to this (TROSA, Delancy Street, Recovery Ventures) which function in this way, but much more wide-spread, uniform, and regulated access is needed to make this work. This alone would make a dramatic difference in homelessness and crime rates which would benefit the surrounding community and save funds. This strategy would be our best shot at converting addicts into law-abiding, tax-paying citizens.

3)America should implement the harm-reduction policies that have been so successful in South America. Addicts receive the drugs they need and clean needles, and use them in a supervised setting with medical personnel on hand. Studies show that many addicts in this setting opt to seek recovery, and enter the system outlined above. Whether or not addicts choose to stop using, this clinical approach to drug supply cuts out the criminal element of drug abuse and leaves organized crime and gangs empty-handed. Citizens benefit from lower crime rates and are not victimized by people desperate for their next fix, and our roads are clear of drug-impaired drivers.

medication assisted treatment

Please view this NY Times article on Suboxone. In NYS , Suboxone is a cash cow for many doctors.I am finding doctors who are prescribing Suboxone and benzo's together or over prescribing which in turn creates excess cash for patients who sell their suboxone as opposed to taking it. In addiction, many addicts in early recovery often see Suboxone as lightening in a bottle which will cure them, and often are not willing to put in the necessary work for their recovery.

Heroin deaths.

One thing is that street drugs are not regulated, the doses vary which can result in accidental overdose. Until the powers that be see addiction as a disease and not a crime we can not expect much change.

The concept of time

I am an addict I have been clean for 27 years now. I have been working with addicts for 17 years now.
I stopped by cold turkey. I believe that addiction is mainly a spiritual issue more than anything else. Drugs gave the ability to live totally in a state of bliss, and that is what i craved when i stopped - It gave me shorts moments of being really in the present moment where the concept of time is removed. After I stopped I searched and searched for that feeling again, and I feel I have come a long way. I have learnt how to live in the present much more, I meditate - this has taught me how to appreciate and be grateful and accept that life becomes hell when we attach too much to anything and that life is about detachment and letting go. I have learnt to detach quite a bit from the words
BAD and
These are also words that I discovered are useless in my life. If the body feels it is right it will tell you. If we listen we should be on the right track, often we do not listen. Our bodies are our compasses that guide us through our lives. But to follow it we need to listen and we need to have courage. People in general are usually living on the foundation of fear.
I have learnt that our body has all the answers and if we listen carefully it guides us - often though we do not want to listen... The mind on the other hand is usually caught up in a web of time, from which we greatly suffer. I am only saying my experience here and am not commenting on other aspects of addiction like methadone or any other approach.

Chronic Pain Patients

I have been recently affected by a relative's passing as a result of a heroin overdose. While I cried with her mother and I am still shaken up by the senseless death of a 26 year old, beautiful woman, I am also mad. Mad because, as a chronic pain patient, people like my family member are making things worse for the community of pain patients who suffer another setback every time an addict, like my family member, brings these statistics to the forefront again.

There was one statement in your article that really stood out to me that says it all, "Half a million Americans are now addicted to heroin, and four out of five recent heroin initiates had previously used prescription opioids NON-MEDICALLY." Yet, it seems, everything is laid upon the pain patients' laps. It has been proven now that taking away, or making it incredibly difficult, for chronic pain patients to obtain the medications they need to maintain any semblance of a normal life has done NOTHING to stop drug addicts, like my relative, from continuing to be drug addicts, no matter what they must to do to obtain their drugs.

When will this madness stop? It is not the law abiding, drug tested, pill counted pain patient that
is to blame for all the drug addiction woes. Though we continue to be mentioned in the conversation EVERY TIME and we continue to lose our rights in the useless and harmful war on pain patients. The latest loss for many is the rescheduling of Hydrocodone to a schedule ll medication. I feel that patients who have never had to deal with the strict laws of a schedule ll drug will suffer culture shock, thinking, "What have I been taking that is so dangerous I must see the doctor and have a hand written RX every time now?" It's this type of unnecessary hype that keeps chronic pain patients from getting any type of break in the current laws and any break in the way the media portrays pain patients to change the mentality among the general public and the medical community.

Thank you for your time, Sincerely,
Kimberly Miller

I am the one you don't want

I am the one you don't want to be.
I am the mother who has to live the rest of her life without her child.
Heroin ruined my life, and I've never even seen it.
Please, I beg you, from the bottom if this mother's broken heart, please do something about this epidemic. I will never see Stefan get married, have children, he was a mere 20 yrs old... Just starting out, and a bad dose of heroin cut with fentanyl ended his very promising life. It's been almost 10 months and I have no idea how I'm going to live without him.

I am a another mother living with a addict son

I have been living with an addict son more than 15 yrs. We have tried everything that we could but it does not change his life or us. It is hard to “Let go”. When I read your post I can relate what you going through. No one can understand the feeling of addict’s mom/dad. Let’s everyone pray for each other.

An encouraging case : 21-year-old son kicked heroin

I knew something was wrong. Spoons went missing, aluminum foil was charred, needles hidden under his drawer. His behavior was strange: running down our driveway naked, letting out primal screams; banging his head against the wall. He got very skinny. I found a note in his bedroom from his girlfriend that said "I can't wait to do Oxy with you." She introduced it to him, and he married her at 19. The two of them discovered heroin was cheaper than Oxy. Every day they woke up and tried to find some heroin, Valuable jewelry went missing that could be sold. One day he came to me sobbing and told me about his heroin addiction. He said, I know this is no way to live. We found a doctor who refused insurance but prescribed buprenorphine in doses that tapered down to where he could go without it. He stuck to the routine. Now I no longer have savings but I have been blessed with the opportunity to save my child. I gave him many, many hugs and support. After that year, He was off heroin and I believe he will never go back. He sees a counselor to talk through the triggers that bring on cravings. Never thought this would happen under our roof -- but so grateful for the outcome. Now my son is looking forward to being a fulltime college student. He knows to stay away from the "friends" who supplied and used heroin.

Educating on Prescription Drugs

This article goes to show the importance of knowledge and education when it comes to prescription drugs. Due to the majority of users not being able to feel the effects of pain killers any longer, leads them to heroin. A cheaper, easier to find alternative that gets the job done so to speak. Prior to prescription drug use getting out of hand, we should all be well aware of the recommended doses to take and when we actually need them. Possibly have someone monitor your intake or handle the prescription drugs to eliminate this type of occurrence from happening. This happens to anyone, whether addiction runs in the family or not. Great piece and statistical information. Thanks for sharing.

Although you are correct that

Although you are correct that for many patients with chronic pain, opioid drugs lose their effectiveness (and may even contribute to their ongoing suffering), studies so far are unclear about how many pain patients without prior drug or alcohol problems develop abuse or addiction to opioids, and even less is known about whether they transition to heroin to attempt to alleviate their pain. Many people who abuse opioids (including presumably those who shift from opioids to heroin) begin by abusing other people’s prescriptions, not their own.

Laws to help stop the stealing

Most addicts need money, more than they earn to support their habit, if they have a job. Their job is actually going from getting a fix then how to get money then buying the drug and so forth. There needs to make more difficult to pawn items. My though was to show proof that you are a home owner, or something that could deter pawning. Perhaps all pawned items have to be listed in the news paper, who pawned and what was pawned. Addicts steal items from their family and the family member becomes a victim of a crime that they can'trove who took it or where it went. Starting with pawn shops may help in a small way of cutting down on their money supply. Bring these people to a point where they have no where to turn but help. Jail is not the answer. Each drug crime unless murder is involved should send them to rehabs. Each time they have an arrest for drugs they are sent to rehab a longer stay every time they get arrested.

depopularize recreational narcotics use

My heart goes out to the commenters here and elsewhere who have personal experience with these drug related tragedies.
As a matter of addressing this crisis, the obvious course of action is taking measures that would reduce and ideally eliminate future tragedy.
One big measure would be too depopularize the desire for recreational narcotics all across society, whereupon many of the social costs of drug abuse would be eliminated. However this logical approach to solving one of America's most vexing problems will be ever more challenging with the rising popularity and acceptance of marijuana, which appears to serve as a gateway drug physiologically and culturally.
So the big question is how to depopularize narcotics. And I think the answer lies in reducing the inadvertent 'advertising' narcotics get with popular culture. Popular culture all across the entertainment industry though not directly but subtly popularizes the appeal of narcotics to the young. It's a devious relationship that exists for which young developing minds and bodies are most vulnerable. Part of it is acceptance, sexuality, defiance etc.
By nationally reducing or banning avertising for alcohol and tobacco in years past, we saw drastic reductions in usage. It will work. Now government needs to work in conjunction with the entertainment industry in a similar matter to quit inadvertently advertise and popularizes narcotics.

Find Help Near You

The following website can help you find substance abuse or other mental health services in your area: www.samhsa.gov/find-treatment. If you are in an emergency situation, people at this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: 1-800-273-TALK. Or click on: www.suicidepreventionlifeline.orgExternal link, please review our disclaimer.. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member on our Treatment page.

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    Cite this article

    NIDA. (2014, June 24). What Can We Do About the Heroin Overdose Epidemic?. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/noras-blog/2014/06/what-can-we-do-about-heroin-overdose-epidemic

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    Dr. Nora Volkow: Remarks and Video Highlights

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    • Meet the Woman Leading the Nation's War on Addiction, October 2018
    • Aspen Ideas Festival 2018: Shining Light on Less Visible Prescription Drug Epidemics, June 2018
    • Dr. Nora Volkow on Addiction: A Disease of Free Will, May 2015
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    • The World Science Festival, April 2014
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    • CBS 60 Minutes, April 2012
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