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  • Gary Probst

The heroin crisis

The United States is going through a crisis of heroin addiction and overdose deaths of teens and young adults are haunting the population, from major cities to the smallest of towns. Heroin addiction is extremely serious, as even a single exposure to the drug, or even synthetic opium-based drugs, can change a person's brain communication and plunge them into a severe addiction.

People are all different. One person may not experience enough damage to need the drug for ongoing use. The next person can go from a painkiler, like Vicodin, to searching for street heroin. Controlled narcotics are limited in use by the FDA for a good reason. Some people simply need more and more and more for the same effect. This causes the overdose crisis.

Genetics and early environment account for much of the difference in people. Those with a genetic predisposition to addiction may be better able to combat it with strong peer support and family connections. Those without such attachments may seek the dopamine rush that comes with the use of drugs, ranging from heroin to marijuana.

Anxiety plays a key role in any type of addiction, from overeating to sexual behavior and certainly regarding the use of alcohol and drugs. Although other addictions have negative long-term effects, drug use of strong narcotics, like cocaine; meth; crack cocaine and any form of heroin-like product can permanently change the brain with very limited use. Once the brain's communication patterns are disrupted, somewhat rewired, the addiction may take over the person's life. The feeling of need and helplessness increases the anxiety that created the initial spark to try the substance and a hamster wheel effect occurs.

It is very difficult to get people off narcotics. Prevention is key. Even the new potent forms of marijuana can cause permanent brain rewiring. Helping people decide not to use and helping them obtain help with anxiety is vital. A daily dose of Zoloft surely beats the dark and dangerous world of narcotics.


  1. National Drug Intelligence Center (2011). The Economic Impact of Illicit Drug Use on American Society. Washington D.C.: United States Department of Justice. Available at:, 2.4MB)

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking-Attributable Mortality, Years of Potential Life Lost, and Productivity Losses—United States, 2000–2004. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Available at: (PDF 1.4MB).

  3. Rehm, J., Mathers, C., Popova, S., Thavorncharoensap, M., Teerawattananon Y., Patra, J. Global burden of disease and injury and economic cost attributable to alcohol use and alcohol-use disorders. Lancet, 373(9682):2223–2233, 2009.

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