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Originally published October 22 2014

Heroin overdoses possibly linked to other causes

by Lindsey Alexander

(NaturalNews) A report was recently released that found a full-blown heroin crisis to be on the rise this year, plaguing the streets of New York. This has allegedly been the worst episode of state-wide drug overdoses related to heroin for any given year since 2003. In total, 420 people died in 2013, while there had been a total of 782 cases of overdose.

Writers at MedlinePlus describe heroin to be a white or brown powder, but it can also come in the form of sticky, dark goo. It is made from morphine, which is a naturally occurring substance from the Asian poppy plant. The dangerous features about this drug include its fast-acting dependency. Heroin's dependency can lead to overdose due to the user's increased tolerance, and increased amount of drug used to satisfy the dependency.

The data from New York found the sharpest spike in heroin use to be from Queens, where 81 people died in 2013.

An addiction specialist and researcher, Dr. Andrew Kolodny, noted the shift in demographics among heroin users in the past 10 years. Claiming that the initial population to abuse this drug consisted of Brooklyn, South Bronx and East Harlem residents, Kolodny says the drug culture now consists of even upper-income neighborhoods found in Staten Island, Queens and Manhattan.

Disproportionately, Hispanic men in their 40s and 50s centered around Bronx have been found using this drug the most. Chief program officer at VIP Community Services, which is a Bronx treatment center, says this older demographic has been on the rise, but the young population is still being seen in treatment facilities for mental health-related issues.

Reasons for sudden increase?

One reason for this increase in heroin overdosing is the rise in laced heroin. Reportedly, pure heroin is "cut" with another substance to decrease the potency of the drug. This method of cutting is usually done with a baby laxative, but as other dangerous drugs like fentanyl are being introduced into the black market, overdoses are expected. Fentanyl is said to be much more potent than heroin, and dangerously fatal on its own.

Outpatient behavioral health director of Addiction Resource Center in Brunswick, Eric Haram, says it is like playing Russian roulette when choosing to do the drug.

Health writer Jen Christensen published an article on CNN earlier this year with yet another take on heroin overdose. Dr. Karen Drexler, director of the addiction psychiatry residency training program and associate professor at Emory University, says heroin makes someone calm, and sometimes even sleepy, but if a user takes too much and falls asleep, they can forget to breathe as the respiratory drive shuts down.

When a person falls asleep, respiration is conducted by an automatic function and usually isn't controlled consciously. However, heroin overdose can also be caused by other factors as well. For instance, a user's blood pressure can dip so low that the person's heart could fail. It has also been reported that intravenous heroin users are 300 times more likely to die from an infection on the surface of the heart, or infectious endocarditis.


About the author:
Lindsey Alexander, contributor of health news and information

Lindsey Alexander, contributor of health news and information

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