This article is sponsored by Ocean Breeze Treatment Centers

A Brief History

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Before heroin was first shot into veins, there were opium dens scattered throughout the American west. The wealth of this drug has been attributed to the Chinese immigrants who first arrived to work on the railroads. Even Wild Bill Hickok and Kit Carson preferred these dens to saloons. By the late 1800’s, opium was touted as a cure for rampant alcoholism. The resulting dream-like state and euphoria had cowboys staying in these dens for days at a time. By the mid-1800’s, morphine, derived from opium, was commonly used by civilians and soldiers injured in the civil war as a painkiller for severe or chronic discomfort. This led to a morphine epidemic by the 1870’s, when the new “wonder drug” heroin was introduced as a safe, “non-addictive” alternative to morphine.

What is Heroin?
Heroin is an opioid drug that is synthesized by morphine. Morphine is naturally occurring, extracted from the Asian opium poppy plant. Once heroin is produced, it’s a white or brown powder or sticky “black tar” heroin. This highly addictive drug gives the user a rush (euphoria) accompanied by a dry mouth and warm flush.

The Comeback in Popularity
For a while, prescription opiates took the place of drugs like heroin, but stricter state legislation made this more difficult. The combination of long-established drug trafficking channels on the East Cost plus ethnic groups that were used to providing this drug made the comeback possible. “The ‘natural’ progression for those who either had a taste for opiates or an addiction to them was to switch to heroin.”

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Health Problems
Chronic use leads to addiction and heroin dependence. Withdrawal symptoms can be severe, leading to a craving for the drug. HCV and HIV transmissions are possible if needles are shared, and street drugs may contain toxic additives that can clog blood vessels and permanently damage major organs. Optic centers in the brain may be damaged (pain and pleasure sensors), which can result in suppression of breathing that can interfere with oxygen reaching the brain (hypoxia). This may result in coma or severe brain injury.

Heroin Statistics Across the U.S.

NY: Between 2004 and 2011, deaths due to opioids including heroin doubled to over 2,000 residents.
: 90% increase in heroin confiscation between 2010 and 2011.
Boston: More than 1,000 people have died due to complications from the use of heroin.
Estimates of approximately 1,000 individuals dying from opiate use in 2014.
Heroin represented only 4.3 percent of primary treatment admissions.
Heroin capital of the U.S. with approximately 1 in 10 residents addicted to the substance.
Heroin deaths have jumped by 85% in the past 2 years.
Over 1,300 individuals died from opiate use in 2014.
Treatment shows that 1 in 5 are admitted for addiction to opiates.
Las Vegas:
57 heroin deaths last year, 48 deaths in 2013 and 44 deaths in 2012.
68 heroin deaths in the first half of 2013, more than double from the same period in 2012 and nearly four times higher than 2011.

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Sharon Damon is a preschool specialist, avid reader, passionate writer and creative baker/ cook. She has been a cooking instructor at a local Rec Center in Henderson, NV since 2011, and has written for Examiner and other publications since 2010. She knows her way around the keyboard and the kitchen! Sharon moved from a small city in Canada to Las Vegas 6 years ago, to marry the love of her life, and has since been swept up in the whirlwind known as Sin City. Her work can be found at