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Drug abuse is a vice that is on the rise in the society with more age group falling victims. In the United States, drug abuse has seen the society suffer huge losses in terms of individual victims and society at large. The approximate cost incurred through drug addiction in the United States includes $600 billion related to drug crimes and $193 billion in the form of illicit drugs. Tobacco abuse accounts for $193 billion while alcohol abuse brings forth a cost of $235 billion (NIDA, 2012). These figures bring out a clear picture of the heavy cost the United States society is suffering from clearly demonstrating the need to have a comprehensive and inclusive campaign against drug abuse. This paper aims at shedding light on heroin abuse as a nursing issue that needs a multi-approach and thorough nursing attention.
Nature and Extent of Heroin Abuse
Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs with the numbers of addicts in the United States presenting an upwards shift since 2007 (Volkow, 2014). Heroin abuse has far devastating effect with the major ones being under the social or medical. Medical problems associated with heroin abuse include but not limited to, hepatitis, fetal complication and HIV/AIDS (Volkow, 2014). Social repercussions include reduced individual productivity and violence and general disruption of societal order. It is a highly addictive substance extracted from morphine found in poppy plants. Heroin abuse has become a serious vice in the society. A survey which was conducted in between 1995-2002 indicated that heroin addicts included even people aged 12-17 years old (Foundation for a Drug-Free World, 2015). To make the statistics even more worrying was the fact that the study identified that within the study time, the number of teenagers involved in heroin abuse in the United States increased by 300% (Foundation for a Drug-Free World, 2015). This is a clear indication that the nursing front needs to come up with a countermeasure action that is sensitive and appreciative of the dynamics involved with the current abuse of heroin.
Individual’s Impact of Heroin Abuse
The effects of heroin abuse are very severe. It has huge effects on the brain of addicts. When heroin is in the brain, it is converted into morphine that is able to clog to opioid receptors responsible for pain detection (NIDA, 2014). Opioid receptors are also responsible for critical life supporting roles done by the brainstem that includes blood pressure and respiration to name but a few. This is the reason behind those who have overdosed experiencing suppressed breathing that, in turn, reduces oxygen level reaching the brain a phenomenon called Hypoxia. Hypoxia, in most cases, leads to brain damage that can be temporarily or permanent (NIDA, 2014). The injection is done using shared needles also exposes the drug addicts to diseases like hepatitis and HIV. There is always the probability of having a fatal overdose that leads to death. When an addict is pregnant, heroin abuse may lead to fetal complications leading to the death of fetus or both mother and fetus. Heroin may contain contaminants that may lead to the clogging of blood vessels and the addict risk from having his/her vital organs like lungs damaged.
Short-Term and Long-Term Effects of Heroin Abuse
The short-term effect of heroin abuse is manifested among addicts, whereby, at this stage, there are high medical cases brought to the health care facilities ranging from withdrawal symptoms to overdose cases. The effects, at this stage, are not rampant and can only be felt by the close relative and friends of the heroin addict. A good example of the short term effect may include disrupted family relation where an addict becomes hostile while experiencing withdrawal symptoms. At this stage, the health care system does not experience huge challenges since the number of cases brought forward is easily manageable. There is no huge influx of addicts requiring medical attention, at the same time, the resources available in the health care system can meet the demand.
The long-term effects of heroin abuse are very severe to both society and health care system. There is the huge human ‘waste’ where a lot of people fall victim, and this heavily undermines not only the productivity of the population at hand but also the social order. The continued abuse of the drug leads to an increase in demand for the drug giving rise to drug lords who are there to service the demand of the drug. The illegal drug business leads to heavy human loss through the consumption of heroin not forgetting the constant bloody battle of controlling the illegal trade.
The long-term effect heroin addict is also manifested in the form of increased number of addicts and fatalities. In the United States, between 2002 and 2013, heroin overdose-related deaths almost quadrupled with the country suffering from 8,200 deaths in 2013 (CDC, 2015). This is a good example of the long-term effect of heroin abuse. There is a high level of death rates, not forgetting the huge demand exerted on the health care system in term of rehabilitative aid towards victims. Another long-term effect of the heroin abuse to the population is the fact that the abuse cuts across ages and income levels. A study in the United States shows a sharp upward shift in heroin use in when the findings of 2002-2004 are compared with 2011-2013. The most affected age was between 18-25 years and, in terms of income, the middle-level income earners ($20,000- $49,999) had the greatest percentage of addicts of approximately 77% (CDC, 2015).
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