Editor’s Note: Erin Marie Daly started reporting on the links between painkiller addiction and heroin use after her 20-year-old brother, Pat, died of a heroin overdose.
She allowed us to excerpt this post from her blog, Oxy Watchdog, which she started in her brother’s memory.
Drug overdose death rates worldwide are skyrocketing: of the estimated 78,000 deaths in 2010 because of illegal drug use, more than half were due to painkillers, according to a recent study published in the medical journal The Lancet.
And in the U.S., drug overdose is now the number one cause of accidental death of Americans between the ages of 35 and 54, killing over 38,000 people in 2010; many of these deaths were caused by prescription opiates.
The painkiller addiction epidemic has also led to a rise in heroin abuse. A new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also found that found that four out of five recent heroin initiates — about 79% — previously used prescription pain relievers non-medically. According to SAMHSA, the number of people reporting that they have used heroin in the past 12 months rose from 373,000 people in 2007 to 620,000 people in 2011. Similarly, the number of people dependent on heroin in the past 12 months climbed from 179,000 people in 2007 to 369,000 people in 2011.
Share your personal story. All too often, fear and shame keep people from talking about how addiction has affected their lives. Start talking. End the silence.
My brother Pat was addicted to prescription painkillers and later heroin, but he kept much of his addiction hidden from his family because he felt ashamed.
After Pat died of a heroin overdose in 2009, I wanted to understand how these pills had transformed him from a fun-loving ball of energy to a heroin addict hell-bent on getting his next fix. I set out on a painful personal journey, turning a journalistic eye on Pat’s addiction; in the process, I was startled to discover the rising number of young heroin addicts whose addiction began with pills.
I also found some of Pat’s journals and learned how deeply he struggled with feelings that he had let us down — a sense of shame that has been echoed by many of those I’ve interviewed. I wish I had known this before he died. I wish he weren’t the reason behind this website.
To read more of Erin Marie Daly’s reporting, visit her website Oxy Watchdog. The video below also tells more of her story:
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