Young women and substance abuse is not a new problem. There was a time addiction was considered more of a men’s issue, and although statistically more men abuse substances than women, addiction is a women’s issue as well.
For many years, women’s addiction has followed certain trends. Typically, alcohol has been the most abused drug among women. Benzodiazepine use has also long been a problem, along with methamphetamine use. In recent years, the gap between male drug use and female drug use has been steadily closing.
Today, a new trend is emerging: Young women and heroin addiction.
The New Heroin Epidemic
Heroin use is on the rise. After years of being out of the spotlight, it’s returned as an increasingly popular drug, particularly among young people. While cocaine, meth and synthetic drugs continue to be an issue, heroin is quickly becoming an alarming problem that borders on an epidemic.
The drug landscape is changing, and what was once considered a drug primarily used by men, often from the streets of tough neighborhoods, has now come to suburbia. Today’s heroin user is increasingly middle-class, young and female.
Why Has Heroin Use Become So Common?
If you zoom out to look at the drug more broadly, you will see that while heroin use is an alarming issue, opiate use in general is even more so. Opiate drugs include not only heroin but prescription painkillers such as Vicodin, Oxycontin, Morphine, Percocet, etc.
The last decade has seen a frightening wave of addiction, overdose and death as prescription opiate abuse has continued to rise among men and women of all ages.
It is believed that the recent popularity of heroin is partially due to the rising numbers of people who are addicted to opiate painkillers, partly due to the availability of cheap heroin and partly due to the trend itself. In other words, heroin has gone mainstream.
Why Are More Women Using Heroin?
If we are to believe that the rise of heroin use is at least partially due to the increase in prescription painkiller addiction, then the first question to ask is why are more women becoming addicted to those?
Women are prescribed prescription opiate painkillers twice as often as men. Women also develop dependence and addiction to opiates faster than men, and are less likely to receive addiction treatment when they need it.
Women are also more likely to die from an opiate overdose than men, and at this point, more women are dying from drug overdose than in automobile accidents.
The increase in heroin use can be tied to the painkiller addiction epidemic. While not all people who use heroin started out using prescription opiates, it is a common progression. The problem with opiate painkillers is that it doesn’t take very long to become addicted to them.
In an effort to stem the tide of opiate addiction, stricter policies regarding prescription medication means that doctors are no longer giving bottomless refills of Oxycontin anymore. This means that the addicted person now has to pay the street price of pain pills, and they are expensive. What happens when you can no longer afford to buy pills? For many women, the only thing left to do is turn to heroin, which is considerably cheaper and often easier to obtain.
While heroin use is not solely due to the prescription opiate addiction problem, it’s no doubt at least partially responsible. The fact that heroin is so cheap and plentiful, and that it’s become so mainstream that it can be found just about anywhere is also an issue. In the past, you had to travel outside the suburbs, often to inner city neighborhoods and dark alleys to get heroin. This is no longer the case. You can find heroin on your street or at school.
The Consequences Of This Trend
Despite strides made in addressing the needs of women in addiction treatment, women continue to be an underserved population. They are simply not getting the treatment they need. Lack of access and education is part of the problem. Women who are primary caregivers not employed outside the home may not be able to access the help that they need. Mothers may be reluctant to reach out and get help for fear of losing their children. Women often fear the stigma associated with drug addiction. Society continues to level harsher criticism and judgment against a drug addicted mother than a drug addicted father. Women are also more likely to be trapped in abusive relationships that may present a barrier to getting help of any kind.
The increase in heroin use among women, coupled with the fact that they are simply not getting the treatment they need is frightening. More women are dying each and every day as a result of heroin and other opiate drug overdoses. Women are also contracting HIV and Hepatitis C from needle use, losing custody of their children and giving birth to drug-dependent babies. This is a drug trend that needs to stop.
Women need access to treatment that works, and that understands the needs of women. Mothers need to feel safe enough to reach out for help and help needs to be readily available.
Getting Help For Heroin Addiction
If you are a woman struggling with addiction, Wayside House can help. Wayside House is a residential treatment program for adult women. We provide comprehensive recovery services in a warm, welcoming and safe environment. Women at Wayside have access to a variety of unique therapies normally found only in high-priced luxury rehabs. Call 800-655-0817 to schedule a confidential consultation.