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The Effects of Heroin on Society

The effects of heroin on society are numerous. Countless Americans believe that heroin abuse is not their problem. They have misconceptions that heroin users belong to a segment of society different from their own or that heroin abuse is remote from their environment. They are wrong. In general, almost three quarters of all drug users are employed. A majority of Americans believe that drug use and drug-related crime are among our nation.s most pressing social problems. Alarmingly, approximately forty-five percent of Americans know someone with a substance abuse problem.

While the effects of heroin on society threaten Americans of every socio-economic background, geographic region, educational level, and ethnic and racial identity, the effects of drug use are often felt disproportionally. Neighborhoods where illegal drug markets flourish are plagued by attendant crime and violence. Americans who lack comprehensive health plans and have smaller incomes may be less able to afford treatment programs to overcome drug dependence. What all Americans must understand is that the effects of heroin on society happen to each and every socio-class. Every family is vulnerable.

Some 600,000 people in the United States alone are addicted to heroin, an increase over the estimated number of addicts during the 1970s and 1980s. While injection remains the most practical and efficient means of administering low-purity heroin, the availability of high-purity heroin makes snorting or smoking viable options. As more chronic users turn to snorting heroin, consumption has increased dramatically compared to consumption a decade ago when injection was the only option available. The April 1996 Pulse Check, a survey conducted by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, found that while most heroin users are older, long-term drug abusers, growing numbers of teenagers and young adults are using the drug.

It appears that the effects of heroin on society have not dramatically affected the younger generations. The 1996 Monitoring The Future study found that one percent of twelfth graders had used heroin in the past year, and half of one percent had done so within the last thirty days. Encouragingly, both figures were lower than the 1995 findings. However, the 1996 survey showed that the number of youths who ever used heroin doubled between 1991 and 1996 among eighth and twelfth graders, reaching 2.4 percent and 1.8 percent respectively.

The social and health effects of heroin on society are staggering. Drug-related illness, death, and crime cost the nation approximately $66.9 billion. Every man, woman, and child in America pays nearly $1,000 annually to cover the expense of unnecessary health care, extra law enforcement, auto accidents, crime, and lost productivity resulting from substance abuse.25 Illicit drug use hurts families, businesses, and neighborhoods; impedes education; and chokes criminal justice, health, and social service systems.

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