Beware: Heroin now has a Higher Risk of Death

Heroin, for a long time, has been one of the most addictive street drugs available. With large numbers of users, a high rate of addiction, and a low rate of recovery, it is feared by many, but there is now a new reason to be fearful of the drug: it’s being laced and now has a higher rate of overdose.

What’s the scoop?

Lots of heroin that’s on the streets now is laced with Fentanyl, a drug that is commonly used in hospitals for acute pain control for procedures and post-operatively, but it is making heroin 50 to 100 times stronger, and even the most experienced drug users are overdosing due to the addition of this pain killer. In some areas, the heroin is labelled as having additives, and in other places, it is just being sold as heroin and the people purchasing the drug are not aware of the potentially deadly addition. Granted, one could make the argument that any time you are purchasing heroin to inject directly into your bloodstream you are taking potentially dangerous drug, which is a completely accurate description, but long-term users tend to know how much they can shoot and don’t commonly overdose. Adding in Fentanyl to that dose that long-term users take regularly, can lead to an immediate overdose.Heroin

Over a three month period, there were more than 50 deaths spreading over 3 states…and the numbers are rising. In the state of Rhode Island alone, there have been just shy of 100 deaths since the start of 2014 and more than 500 overdoses of this fatal heroin/Fentanyl mix treated by emergency personnel, to the point that now police are carrying Narcan (a quick acting antidote to opioids such as heroin and fentanyl, which can buy time to get a victim to an Emergency Department for further treatment.)

Why is this such a Public Health Crisis?

There are more and more people with prescription pill addictions, who are able to talk HCPs into prescriptions due to pain, or they are purchased over the internet, or off the street, and heroin is essentially a cheaper version of these pain pills. They are all opiates, and work very similarly on the body, but sadly, heroin tends to be cheaper and easier to get than prescription pills. So, the average heroin addict might be the middle class man in a suit next to you at the grocery store….not the homeless person you might assume to be a drug addict. With more and more people turning their prescription pill addiction into a heroin addiction, we have  a problem on our hands, and when they start dying before they can even seek help due to a lethal mixture of heroin and Fentanyl that they are taking by accident, we have a huge problem on our hands. The deaths from heroin and other opiates has doubled over homicides in most cities and now that it is being more openly reported, we are all realizing it is a national problem that is hitting small towns as much as it is affecting cities.

If you, or someone you know has a drug addiction, be aware of the risk every time you (or your loved one) buys heroin, know there are places to get help: SAMHSA (substance abuse and Mental Health Services Administration),, and Narcotics Anonymous are some to start with, but you can also go to your HCP for help with addiction or a local emergency department, and for an immediate overdose, you should call your local emergency services (911 in the US).

Keep your eyes open, if you are a parent or if you suspect a friend or a loved one has an addiction. Talk about the risks, get help yourself on how to work with addiction (Nar Anon Group sessions can be a good start), and get on the road to recovery and prevent an untimely death from this toxic mixture of drugs.

Yours in Good Health


Give a Hug to a Recovering Addict!

Apparently September is quite a month, as it is National Recovery Month. It is a topic very near and dear to me as some of my favorite people and good friends have been fighting addiction facing those daily challenges to stay clean.  They face constant challenges that I cannot even imagine, which is why I wanted to discuss the importance of the friends and families of addicts too, and how much your love and support can help them and assist them to stay clean and sober.

What can I do to help my recovering addict loved one?

There are plenty of resources from in-patient hospitals and rehabilitation centers available for families and loved ones that can be attended while your loved one is being acutely treated, going through the detoxification process, and learning their own coping skills to help them fight this battle. But learn from the inpatient process just as the addict is learning, about coping skills, triggers, stresses, and ways to combat them.

-Stay sober with your recovering addict friend. To show solidarity and so that they aren’t tempted to drink or do drugs.

-Help them the first few months to deal with various stressors as they are getting used to their new sober life: do they need help with scheduling child care? Paying bills? Getting a job? Any way that you can help them ease back into their lives and allow them to start taking responsibility without using drugs or alcohol, is a win for everyone involved.

-Know the signs of a relapse and pay attention.  Ultimately it is NOT your responsibility if a recovering addict relapses, but know the signs: are they secretive? Acting like they did before rehab? Shying away from you? Hanging out with the same people they did when using before? Step in and say something. Be aware of the change in behavior and talk to other friends/family members so that you are all on the same page and one united front, to help your friend.

-Don’t forget to take care of yourself and the other family members should get help as well. A lot of times people need professional counseling to work through the feelings that they had when their loved one was currently using, and then the feelings they may have once they get clean.  Sometimes couples counseling or family counseling can be really helpful for everyone to work through their issues and feelings in a healthy way, so that they can all move forward and be healthy together.

What else do I need to know?

Being aware of the need for continued counseling can help along with knowing the signs that your loved one might show when stressed and at risk for using is really key.  You don’t want to baby them and do everything for them, but it is a huge change going from a life of using drugs and/or alcohol to cope with problems, to learning to cope yourself with these life issues, so helping them through the transition period, where a recovering addict may be most likely to relapse, can be an immense help to a recovering addict.  Also, make the time to check in with them to ensure that they are coping well with their new sober life, and they aren’t tempted to use; if they are, get them safe and get help from a professional (like their counselor or Healthcare Practitioner). Knowing the signs of use or high stress can be integral in preventing a relapse, and keeping your loved one sober.  And remember, it is THEIR responsibility to stay sober, but as someone who loves them, you can help them on that journey, and a relapse isn’t a fail on anyones behalf, it is an unfortunate part of recovery.

So appreciate all of the hard work that your recovering loved one has done to stay sober and change their lives to be healthier and cope in different ways; it is a huge life transformation and a daily challenge. Give them love today and let them know how much you love them and appreciate their hard work.

Yours in Good Health