The Rise of Teen Heroin Abuse

The number of teenagers using illicit drugs, including heroin, has decreased over the last two decades, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In 2014, 27.2 percent of teens used illicit drugs—a significant drop from the all-time high in 1997, when a recorded 34.1 percent of teens used illicit drugs.

But even with the general decline of illicit drug use among adolescents, newspaper reports show there is a growing trend of heroin use among caucasian, middle to upper-class teenagers. According to one report, privileged teens ascend into heroin use through the use of prescription pills (opioids) and more accessible opiates before transitioning to the needle.

In states like Wyoming, paramedics are reporting a 30 percent increase from 2013 to 2014 in overdose-related calls. Furthermore, many of the teens treated match the description of your typical middle-class, girl or boy-next-door.



Image Charles Williams

People who use heroin will also turn to prescription drugs when heroin is not available, according to a study by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. It is possible to increase a heroin-induced high by taking prescription pills, which also help curb withdrawal symptoms and reduce the use of heroin.

Signs and symptoms of heroin use include:

  • Injection marks on the body (specifically places where there are major veins—elbow, hands, feet, wrist)
  • Possession of injection tools, including a needle, tourniquet, spoon, or lighter
  • Restlessness
  • Change in sleeping and eating patterns
  • Vomiting and chills

Signs and symptoms of prescription drug use include:

  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Sweating
  • Poor concentration
  • Confusion
  • Depression

Several states have programs in the works to reduce the use of illicit drugs, however you should seek help from a medical professional if you or your teen is using prescription opioids or heroin. Addictions to these drugs are treatable.

Feature image Africa Studio / Shutterstock