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Stopping Heroin use before it’s too late

Roxana Robinson (2009, July 30) “Stopping Heroin use before it’s too late,” The Boston Globe, A13.

(Download this article review as a PDF)




“The number of illegal teen heroin users more than doubled between 1992 and 2006, rising from 1.1 million to 2.5 million” in the U.S., according to Jospeh Califano, head of the National Center of Drug Addiction and Abuse.


The reasons?


• Heroin is now so pure needles aren’t necessary; it can be snorted.

• It’s absurdly cheap; a bag costs between $10 and $20.

• It’s everywhere: at the gas station, behind the supermarket, in school.

• And, it’s sold by friends, not Tony Soprano.


According to this writer, heroin is spreading through various suburban as well as rural and urban communities in what might be considered an epidemic.


The average age for experimentation has dropped to “13, and 80 percent of high school students have seen drugs sold and used on school grounds, according to a survey of the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.”


Drugs are so cheap and available they seem harmless, and they’re sold by other kids. Out of peer loyalty, teenagers keep quiet.


During high school, kids inhabit two worlds—one legal, one not. Illegal drugs become a part of many teenagers’ experience: swiping pills from a medicine cabinet, getting high on marijuana. After four years, an illegal culture becomes normal. The drugs themselves create neurological change, and the user craves an altered state.


After high school, between the ages of 18 and 25, is the time of greatest risk for heroin addiction. Kids move on to something more exciting. If they’re addicted to prescription opiates, they may switch to heroin, which is cheaper than oxycontin. Once they’ve tried heroin, it’s hard to go back.


Most critiques of our society’s “war on drugs” globally and domestically lean toward negative assessment. Drug arrests are mostly concentrated on users and street dealers while the main suppliers escape detection.


There are currently 1.2 million nonviolent drug-abusers in our prisons, many of them without access to treatment…. Even for those who enter treatment, success rates are less than 50 percent…. Recidivism rates are high and between 1992 and 2006, the number of illegal drug users nearly doubled….


Drug Court offers an alternative to incarceration for nonviolent, addicted offenders.
     • presided over by a judge,

• program provides strict supervision,

     • requires long-term treatment.

(Drug Court) has been shown to lower recidivism rates, treat addiction, and lower the costs of drug crime and its prosecution. Most importantly, it saves lives, enabling graduates to return to responsible and productive lives. There are about 2,000 drug courts nationwide, but this number serves only about 5 percent of the eligible population, according to the Urban Institute.




1.     What most impressed or concerned you in this article?

2.     What questions, suggestions or criticisms do you have with it?

3.     Have you any experience with those experimenting with, or addicted to, heroin?

4.     Did it surprise you that heroin is cheaper and more accessible than oxycontin?

5.     What criticism do you have of society’s (and the criminal justice system’s) drug policies?

6.     Are you in favor of expanding the Drug Court program?

7.     What other suggestions do you have for a general strategy against drug addiction?



1.     Many lives are lost to drug abuse.

2.     Many more lives, and those of their families, are damaged.

3.     There are complicating factors in dealing with any specific case of drug abuse. Most addicted young people have underlying issues or problems that need to be dealt with once they are clean from drugs.

4.     A more holistic and positive approach to the drug scene must be developed. The best practices of privatized programs need to be incorporated, as much as possible, into public programs.


Dean Borgman    c. CYS