As healthcare professionals and researchers have watched the opioid epidemic sweep through the country, the use of needles has also increased dramatically, bringing a host of additional problems. According to new research conducted by scientists at USC, not only is the number of people administering their drugs via needles is increasing, but the amount of time it takes someone to switch their ingestion method to needles is becoming shorter.
“The prescription opioid epidemic is creating a heroin epidemic, which will create an injection drug use epidemic. We’ve seen the first two. Now we’re waiting to see the last emerge on the national level. I predict we’ll see an uptick in injection-related diseases over the next couple of years,” warned Ricky Bluthenthal, author of the study and professor of preventative medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at USC.
This warning by Bluthenthal comes after his team analyzed data collected from 776 drug users from different parts of California. The researchers found that users who were born in the seventies generally used drugs for nine years before deciding to inject via a needle. The researchers then looked at people born in the 80’s and 90’s and found that, on average, they only wait six years.
So, why is this important? Perhaps the most critical time for effective intervention, is before a user turns to the needle. According to this data, families and loved ones have a shorter time frame to get an addict the help they need before they start injecting their drug. Researchers also warn of the increased risk of contracting life-threatening diseases. Hepatitis C is a disease most often passed through needle-sharing, and can be fatal to patients, especially when untreated. Some reports indicate that the number of Hep C cases has doubled in the United States in recent years.
Bluthenthal recommends individualized or region-specific interventions in order to cut down on the number of people using needles. He warns that not everyone is the same and effective tactics for some people may not work on others. The important thing is to not give up and continue focusing on this vulnerable population.
If you suspect your loved one is using drugs, whether or not they have started injecting them, don’t wait before it is too late. Contact us today for effective intervention methods and treatment programs that can help.