Lifespan of Heroin & Opioid Addicts

(Second in a series of topical blogs based on chapter by chapter excerpts from Opiate Nation. Translation into most languages is available to the right. If you feel this blog is important, please repost to your social media using the buttons below. Thank You!)

When our 25 yr old son died of a heroin overdose in 2014, the statistics for the average life-span of a heroin addict was 5 years. Five years. Not very long if you are 15 or 20 or even 30, the age when most young adults’ nowadays are just getting in gear with their career, a long-term relationship, and planning a family. To have your life swept away before you have a chance to experience some of the most wonderful years of living on this earth is painful to consider.

We had just begun to hear about fentanyl-laced heroin in 2014, but now, not only is heroin being ‘cut’ with fentanyl (20-50 times stronger than heroin, 50-100 times more potent than morphine), but so are all other street drugs from marijuana (yes, even pot) to meth to cocaine. And prescription pills that are abused are too: Oxycodone, Percocet, benzodiazepines like Xanax and Rohypnol (the date rape drug that is 10 times stronger than Valium), and Ecstasy. Most of the fentanyl is being produced in labs in China and then either formulated into pills there or sent to Mexico where it is used to cut heroin, cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine.

One might wonder, as I did, what the logic is behind cutting a product with something that can cause an overdose – and potentially lose a buyer? Money and lots of it. Fentanyl-laced product is so cheap to produce compared to agricultural expenses associated with natural products that the huge profits are worth the risk of loss of lives. They are not their lives anyway. And the hope is that it will not cause death but just hook people faster and to more drug use. Knowing this, I would guess the average life-span for a heroin or opioid addict has been reduced substantially from 5 years.

For those of you with young children and adolescents or teens, here are some thoughts for how you might make your family more drug-resistant in this treacherous society we now live in:

  • Talk about prescription drugs and the danger of taking ones that are not specifically prescribed for each person
  • Inform them about counterfeit pills/powders that are laced and how there is no way to know the difference–so they should never take a pill from anyone else, friend or otherwise
  • Two-thirds of young people who report non-medical use of a prescription got it from family or friends or just an acquaintance–so lock up prescriptions and dispose of ‘extras’
  • At all cost, try to avoid prescription opioids for your kids, especially for things like tooth/wisdom teeth extractions where it has been shown that most kids first exposure to opioids is at the dentist. They can feel pain for a day and survive.
  • Check out Operation Prevention website, below, for resources. Operation Prevention’s mission is to educate students about the true impacts of opioids and kick-start lifesaving conversations in the home and classroom.

Four out of five heroin users today started with a prescription opioid. Our son was one of those who had his first exposure at the dentist and then later on, was given them by a friend. The rest is his-story: Opiate Nation.

Author: Jude DiMeglio Trang

My husband, John, and I are parents of a young opiate addict who died of an accidental heroin overdose at 25. These are our credentials for writing and working towards reversing the exponentially rising statistics for opiate addiction and deaths in our country and the world.

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