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Pitfalls of discarded drug paraphernalia

12-27 | By Rachael

Pitfalls of discarded drug paraphernalia

Heroin, a highly addictive illegal opioid, is listed as Schedule I drug and has no accepted medical use in the United States. Despite the dangers associated with heroin abuse, there has been a significant rise in the number of users in the U.S.  In 2016, an estimated 948,000 people aged 12 or older were heroin users in the past year (representing 8 percent of the people who abuse opioids). Though the estimation was similar to that in 2014 and 2015, it was higher than the estimates for the years between 2002 and 2013.

It appears that young adults aged 18 to 25 are addicted to heroin as 0.7 percent (227,000) were assessed to be the heroin users in the past year. Despite the above revelation, the majority of the past year heroin users were adults aged 26 and above, accounting around 708,000 adults (0.3 percent) that was higher than the percentages in all years from 2002 to 2013 and similar to that in 2014 and 2015.

The U.S. has been under the grip of a heroin epidemic from time to time, but the latest one has risen due to an altogether different set of reasons.  Reportedly, people who were abusing prescription opioids have gravitated toward heroin due to low cost and easy accessibility.

Heroin is far more cheaper and easier to obtain heroin than the prescription pain relievers, such as OxyContin and Vicodin. And with this, a new set of statistics related to overdose deaths has sprung up. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of overdose deaths due to heroin has increased by more than four times since 2010, with nearly 13,000 people succumbing to it in 2015.

Left behind syringes increase susceptibility to blood-borne diseases in children

Drug paraphernalia, especially the enormous number of syringes left behind by the users at the site of abuse, has become a cause for concern to the environment and the public. Most of the time, a large number of objects used for abusing drugs are discarded out of sheer carelessness or due to the fear of prosecution.

Such items can be found along hiking trails, playgrounds, parks, baseball dugouts, sidewalks and streets. Some of these get transported into the rivers through drainage and are carried downstream and onto beach beds. The unattended syringes and other objects pose a serious challenge for people, especially children, elderly, animals, birds, etc.

Often children risk getting pricked by discarded needles, raising the possibility of contracting blood-borne diseases, such as hepatitis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), etc. They also run the risk of being exposed to the remains of heroin and other drugs. There are reports of children playing with such items by mistaking them for some other apparatus.

The prospect of children finding them has become a worrisome factor, as the affected child has to endure an array of tests to avoid contraction of any kind of disease. There are reports of some children being accidentally poked by needles while playing, such as on the grounds of an elementary school in Utah and at the beach in New Hampshire.

In various places, officials and some community advocates have been collecting discarded syringes. The numbers are indeed distressing to say the least and is nothing short of a health hazard. In Portland, Maine, 700 needles had been collected by July of this year and is already set to exceed last year’s record of 900 needles. San Francisco collected more than 13,000 syringes in March of this year compared with 2,900 collected last year in the same month. Fortunately, some community advocates are leading cleanup programs.

Ensure proper execution of drug kits

A slew of initiatives starting with more funding directed at treatment programs, running needle exchange programs, or creating of safe places for drug users to shoot up (already introduced in Canada and proposed by the city officials from New York to Seattle) is required to stem the flow of needles escalating day by day. The entire community needs to work together to get needles without turning up more number of used needles.

If you or your loved one is struggling with addiction, contact the Colorado Substance Abuse Advisors for information about the state-of-the-art substance abuse treatment centers in Colorado. Call our 24/7 helpline number 866-300-5857 or chat online with our representatives for further information about the evidence-based substance abuse treatment programs in Colorado.


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