Can You Spot a Heroin Addict? Busting Stigma & Stereotypes

I know what you are thinking. Spotting a heroin addict is easy right? You are probably thinking of a poor, skinny, dirty, unhealthy and gangly looking individual who roams the streets of the worst parts of town(s) closest to home, right? And for those with no experience in seeing this, you might decide to Google “heroin addict” to see what comes up.  Yup, Google pretty much supports the description of a “heroin addict” that I proposed above.  So this must be what a heroin addict looks like right?

heroin addict from google

Gee thanks Google, I feel very educated now.  All you’ve done is support the stereotype and stigma associated with drug addiction and what a heroin addict looks like.  My personal favorite is image number 6, showing a girl with an wickedly evil grin holding a syringe as if to say “yeah that’s right bitch, I’m gonna shoot this needle into me and there’s not a damn thing you can do to stop me”.  This is not the typical face of a heroin addict.

Breaking Stereotypes and Stigma Associated with Heroin Addiction

heroin addict stigmaBut what if I told you that the young, athletic senior in high school living next to you in that big house is a heroin addict?   What if I told you that the nice, older lady down the street who always gives the best candy to your children on Halloween is a heroin addict?  What if I told you that your boss regularly snorts heroin and does Xanax?  What if I told you that your son has turned to drugs and is now addicted to them?

The above examples may or may not apply to you, but this reality is starting to unveil itself and take off its mask.  The stereotypical heroin addict still exists but heroin has become an epidemic and now floods the streets like an open sewer.  However, it’s still hidden from our eyes.  Many would-be “normal” individuals have gotten taken-in by heroin, drugs and addiction.  No longer does someone have to go to the worst parts of town to buy heroin from the streets.  Young men and women are being offered heroin at parties by close friends they love and trust with their lives.  And they don’t look like stereotypical heroin addicts either.  They’re athletes, jocks, nerds, singers, actors, scientists, teachers, business people, lovers, fighters, men, women, white, black, Asian, straight, gay, transgender, etc.  Heroin is everywhere and it doesn’t discriminate.

How Do “Normal” People Become Heroin Addicts?

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For starters, there’s really no such thing as a “normal” person.  And if there is, then everyone starts out as normal, at least in some way.  We are all born different but with the same “human” qualities and characteristics.  Nobody is born an addict and nobody wants to be an addict when they grow up.  Addiction is not a choice.

Individuals decide to use heroin and other drugs for varying reasons but it only takes one use to become addicted.  Addiction is a disease of the brain.  Putting something into the body that touches the pleasure center of the brain a certain way can “activate” addiction in those who are genetically predisposed.  While a particular and specific gene has not been isolated, it has been determined that genes do play a role and are a factor in who becomes addicted.  A lot of people experiment with heroin and other drugs at various times in their lives, but not everyone becomes an addict.  See “Proof that Addiction is a Disease and How it Affects the Brain” for more information.

How Did Heroin Migrate Into the Suburbs and Countryside?

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Sadly, drug cartels (criminal organizations with the intention of supply drug trafficking operations) exist for one purpose, to make money.  Migrating to new areas means new opportunities to make money.  Heroin has been a problem for a long time.  But as it spreads, more and more people are being taken in by the promise that heroin (and other drugs) can numb the pain of a broken heart, or stop the grief from losing a loved one, or make you less anxious or more popular, etc.

Producing, supplying and trafficking heroin is illegal but it’s nonetheless a real profession and industry.  It is speculated that higher powers such as political figures, powerful businessmen and wealthy individuals at pharmaceutical companies are responsible for and are fueling the drug, addiction and heroin epidemic.  However, there doesn’t seem to be a way to know for sure what or how it’s happening.  And we can only speculate that if anyone ever discovered specific individuals who were responsible for and behind drug cartels that the ones “in the know” would be silenced and/or eliminated.  Thus, while law enforcement and “good guy” individuals with power seek to find and stop criminal behavior, Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide, Heroin News and the National Alliance of Addiction Treatment Centers (NAATC) focus is on education and helping to save lives of addicts who are reaching out for help.

Changing the Way We Think About Addiction

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A lot of people still see an addict as a dirty, skinny, gangly individual with no hope of treatment or recovery.  Addicts are still seen as “junkies”, “druggies” and many still believe that they’ve chosen this lifestyle.  It’s true that addiction is fed by our actions but nobody chooses to be an addict.  See “When I Grow Up, I Want To Be an Addict!’ Said No Child Ever“.  Many individuals with the disease of addiction want nothing more than to quit and stop using.  But the compulsion and the urge to use is both overwhelming and overpowering and as much as somebody wants to quit, the urge to use often stronger than their urge to stop.  Thus, the cycle of addiction continues.

To make matters worse, those who’ve been consistently using heroin for awhile become physically dependent (different from addiction) on the drug.  As a result, those who try to quit or even succeed have to fight against both addiction (powerful urges and compulsions to use) and physical heroin withdrawal.  See “Addiction Vs. Dependence: What is the Difference?”  And let’s not forget that addicts have to face the reasons they started using drugs in the first place.  They’ve been avoiding things for so long that facing whatever realities that led them to try drugs (even before addiction or dependence took place) may feel virtually impossible.

Those who regularly and perpetually use heroin or other drugs likely suffer from the disease of addiction.  They are not “junkies”, “druggies”, “dope fiends” or “losers”.  They are sick and they need help.  But unlike other diseases where there are no choices at play, an addict does have a choice to continue feeding their disease or to starve it.  Many addicts are afraid to choose addiction treatment and recovery while others are simply just not ready or wiling.

Saving those Who are Ready to Choose Addiction Treatment

A small percentage of addicts get to a point where they decide they truly want addiction help and they’re ready to commit to do what it takes to get treatment and live a life of long, lasting recovery.  Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide, Heroin News and the NAATC are here to help anyone who is truly willing to make the commitment to get treatment.

If you are suffering from addiction and you’re ready to get your life back or even start it for the first time, please contact us or visit our list of top addiction treatment centers and drug rehab facilities.


 

Written and Published By,

William – Publisher and Founder of Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™
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