Time reports that heroin use has reached epidemic proportions, increasing 63% in the last 11 years. That means the number of addicts seeking treatment are up too. But with health care in America being in the state it's in today, treatment options aren't exactly easy to come by. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention point out that heroin-related overdose deaths have quadrupled during the 11 years between 2002 and 2013 due to the heroin epidemic. 

Here are some other relevant facts: 

  • In 2013 an estimated 517,000 people reported that they had used heroin in the last year or had a heroin-related dependence. That's a 150% increase from 2007.
  • More than 8,200 people died of heroin-related overdoses in 2013. 
  • Heroin use is most common among men between the ages of 18 and 25 who make less than $20,000 per year. 
  • In recent years, heroin use has doubled among women and non-Hispanic white people.
  • People who are addicted to painkillers may make the switch to heroin since it’s cheaper, doesn’t require a prescription, and offers a similar high. 
  • Those addicted to prescription opioid painkillers are 40 times more likely to be addicted to heroin. 
  • People addicted to cocaine are 15 times more likely to be addicted to heroin.

The reason there has been such an increase in heroin usage is because prices for the drug have gone down. According to Social Justice Solutions, a large reason for decreasing prices has to do with the Afghanistan war. The organization states that, 

"Before the war, the Taliban subsidized Afghan farmers to grow food crops rather than opium. Opium poppy is the plant from which heroin is made. When the Taliban fled or went into hiding, the farmers lost their financial support to grow food, and returned to growing heroin, a crop that thrives in regions of Afghanistan. The increased amount of heroin production flooded the European markets. As a result, the heroin being produced in South America and Mexico was no longer needed in Europe and the excess supply flooded the United States.

Following the principles of economics, supply went up, price went down and in some cities heroin now sells for as little as $4/bag.

And because heroin purity has increased as much as 60%, it is not necessary to inject ('shoot up') the drug. Snorting heroin can now give the same 'rush' that in the past was only possible by using needles. No needles has resulted in more people willing to try it, contributing to the heroin epidemic and its wide spread use."

Last year, Business Insider revealed that addicts are having a hard time getting treatment because not only are rehab facilities overcrowded, treatments are also expensive. Most insurance companies won't cover inpatient rehab costs. Here are two examples to illustrate how large the problem has become: 

  • In June this year, Maine’s largest treatment center, Mercy, closed its doors and eliminated 250 beds because of declining insurance reimbursement rates. For addicts, this leaves only the state-funded rehab program where the wait is 18 months. 
  • In Youngstown, Ohio, there's currently a three-month waiting list for any rehab facility due to the heroin epidemic. 

That's why one 25-year-old woman, Kayla Dempsey, as reported by WFMJ.com, asked a Youngstown judge to put her in jail. In an attempt to get her life and three-year-old son back, Dempsey pleaded guilty to possession of a drug instrument and requested that Judge Elizabeth Kobly throw her in jail for 30 days. Dempsey told the news outlet,

"There's no help out there anymore.There's a three-month waiting list for any rehab around here because of the heroin epidemic.It was faster to go to jail...Judge Kobly is not known for her kindness.I was not expecting her to agree to 30 days, and when she did I felt so blessed.And I knew right then and there somebody cares."

Rising heroin use brings up many issues. First, there's the issue of addiction itself and why it should be treated as a mental/medical disorder rather than a criminal issue. Then, there's the fact that our health care system isn't even equipped to handle such large scaledrug abuse. And then there is the issue of mass incarceration revolving around drug abuse. In the case of Kayla Dempsey, incarceration was the only hope. But usually, incarceration is not a better solution, which brings me to my final point. Drugs should be legalized and regulated.  

Just look at Portugal, which decriminalized all drug use in 2001. According to Mic.com,

"Fourteen years after decriminalization, Portugal has not been run into the ground by a nation of drug addicts. In fact, by many measures, it's doing far better than it was before."

It's pretty hard to argue against legalization once you've seen numbers from such a successful real-life experiment. 

What do you guys think about the Afghanistan war flooding heroin into America? 

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ora Media, LLC its affiliates, or its employees.

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