Last summer’s headline news was the heroin-related death of Glee star Cory Monteith, best known for playing television’s clean-cut high school football star Finn Hudson. Last month’s headline was Philip Seymour Hoffman, also known to teens for his role as head gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee in the popular Hunger Games movie series. Yet beyond Hollywood, stories of heroin abuse and tragedy appear in communities nationwide.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. drug poisoning deaths involving heroin increased 45 percent from 2006 to 2010 — and the trend is especially dire for younger users ages 15 to 24.
Heroin is much more powerful than it used to be and, according to drug enforcement experts, is not limited to the use of a needle and back-alley experiences that might come to mind. According to a recent Teen Vogue article, getting heroin is as easy as purchasing a pill, because that’s what heroin has become: a powder-filled capsule known as a button, designed to be broken open and snorted, that can be purchased for just $10.
Experts say that many heroin users start with pain pills. Perhaps that is not surprising: The CDC 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System reports that 20.7 percent of students surveyed had taken prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription one or more times during their life. But pain pills are expensive—legally and on the black market—pushing those dependent on them to seek out a cheaper, more easily accessible alternative with a similar kind of high: heroin.