Column 1



Here are some things you might be curious about...

Is heroin really that big a problem in the St. Louis area?
What happens when you take heroin?
How much does it cost?
My friends are pressuring me to try heroin. What do I do?
What is the relationship between prescription painkillers and heroin?
What do I do if I have a heroin or prescription painkiller problem?
What do I do if a friend or family member has a heroin problem?
What is enabling?
Where can I get a not-even-once bracelet?
What if I still have more questions?

Is heroin really that big a problem in the St. Louis area?

Heroin is not just a problem in poor or inner-city areas. At the National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse (NCADA) – St. Louis Area, we began to notice an increase of calls coming into our Helpline specifically referencing heroin about three or four years ago. In 2010 the number of these type of counseling calls increased dramatically, and they were coming from all over the St. Louis area, including west and south St. Louis county Jefferson County, Madison County, and adjoining counties. We are seeing an increase in arrests and requests for treatment related to heroin across the entire nation.

What happens when you take heroin?

If you've ever wondered what it would be like, or what happens after, we invite you to check out the "I'm Curious" section of this website.

How much does it cost?

Prices will vary due to supply and demand but $8 - $12 per ‘button’ or capsule of heroin are the prices we are hearing the most currently. While that may not sound very expensive, you need to keep in mind that as you continue taking heroin, both the amount you need and the frequency you take it go up. It is not unusual for addicts to spend several hundred dollars a day on heroin. Multiply that by 7 days a week, month after month, and you can easily go through tens of thousands of dollars a year supporting a habit. And that does not include the non-monetary costs associated with potential loss of job, friends, interests and life.

My friends are pressuring me to try heroin. What do I do?

It is hard when friends ask you to do something you aren't comfortable with. You may be tempted to give in so you'll fit in, won't be thought of as a wimp or just to get them to stop bugging you about it. Don't give in, especially on something that is so dangerous with life-altering consequeces.

For tips that will help you know how to handle it when you find yourself in this type of situation, visit the "Help Me Say No" section of this website.

If you find you’re having to frequently say no, you need to think about why you’re continuing to put yourself in places or environments that are dangerous or risky.

What is the relationship between prescription painkillers and heroin?

It is extremely important to note that almost ALL of the young people who use heroin used prescription painkillers first! Prescription painkillers serve as a frequent ‘gateway’ to heroin for many young people whether they were originally used by prescription or were gotten by other means.

You may be most familiar with names such as oxycontin, oxycodone and vicodin. These prescription painkillers, also known as synthetic opiates or opiod analgesics, are a relatively new class of painkillers designed to address chronic pain. They are considered generally safe when prescribed, used as prescribed for short duration and when use is closely monitored. However, these drugs have a significant abuse potential and have become increasingly popular as a means of achieving a high, particularly with young people.

Due to an adolescent’s developing brain and its susceptibility to conform to and become addicted to various drugs that can be prescribed, it is likely that any teen who has one of these painkillers prescribed to them should be very closely monitored by a physician and parent or significant other. This cannot be stated enough. Unless absolutely necessary it is preferable a teen be prescribed a less powerful painkiller.

For anyone taking a strong painkiller the potential for a physical dependency to develop is not unusual. This is not necessarily addiction. With a physician’s assistance, the individual can be weaned off the drug with little or no residual impact. However, for that person who is left on such a drug or is strictly taking such a drug in a recreational manner, the potential for addiction is significant.

What do I do if I have a heroin or prescription painkiller problem?

Seek assistance. Treatment can be very effective for heroin or any other substance-abuse addiction but it requires the individual with the problem to fully dedicate themself to treatment. Addiction disease is a progressive condition. As is the case with most other illnesses, the more advanced it becomes the more difficult it is to treat and recover from. Therefore, the sooner someone reaches out for help the better their chances for a successful outcome. Treatment can be difficult to access and sometimes takes time and a good deal of effort to find, but if someone perseveres and doesn’t give up, even when it’s necessary to wait for an opening in a program, they can and do recover from their addiction. Anyone who has ever successfully completed treatment will tell you that recovery was difficult but that the rewards of recovery are never-ending.

For more information, check out the Get Help section of the website.

What do I do if a friend or family member has a heroin problem?

First and foremost, don’t say silent. Actively communicate your concerns and desires for them to get help, even if you feel certain they are going to reject your attempts to get them to address their problem. This is an addiction that can kill at any given time. Overdoses can and do happen when someone least expects it; that means staying silent can be akin to standing by and watching someone drown without throwing them something to hold onto. Very often the process of recovery begins with a family member or concerned friend having the willingness to speak up and communicate their concerns.

Solutions to addictions usually come through the hard work of employing tough love. This can mean demonstrating a willingness to get between the individual and their addiction, or taking a stand on what it is the addict needs to do to arrest their addiction in order to get well. No doubt this is much easier said than done, but there are millions of people in recovery today that are there because someone close to them was willing to speak up and act.

If you think it might be helpful to speak to a counselor prior to sitting down and talking with someone you care about, please call 314.962.3456 (or if outside the greater St. Louis area, click here to find help near you) and ask for a counselor. A few minute conversation with a counselor may help you feel more comfortable before you take on the task of dealing with the possible resistance you will encounter of your loved one or friend who has a problem.

What is enabling?

Too often, relatives or friends of addicts, in their own way in an attempt to help, will enable the addict. Enabling is the process of allowing and even encouraging irresponsible and self-destructive behavior in another, through action or inaction, by shielding them from the consequences of their actions. Enabling is when you make excuses or buy into excuses for the addict’s behavior or assist the addict by giving them a place to stay, food or money. In so doing, the ‘enabler’ has unintentionally become part of the problem because they are allowing the addict to continue on with a progressive disease that may well kill them. Even though enabling is often done out of love and with the best of intentions, rarely will it lead to anything other than the addict getting worse.

NCADA has several factsheets on enabling that may be helpful for you to read if you are in this type of situation with a friend or loved one:

Where can I get a Not-Even-Once bracelet?

Bracelets can be picked up at NCADA's main office at 8790 Manchester Rd, St. Louis, MO 63144. For larger quantities, please call ahead at 314.962.3456 so we can have them ready for you. Bracelets are also generally available at town hall meetings.

What if I still have more questions?

In the greater St. Louis area, the National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse – St. Louis Area is available to answer your questions. You can either email anonymously to our Ask A Counselor service or you can call our NCADA Helpline at 314.962.3456 and ask to speak to a counselor. We will answer your questions and help in whatever way we can. NCADA counselors are available to take your call 9:00 – 5:00 p.m., Mon-Fri. There is no charge for this service.

Outside the greater St. Louis area, click here to find help near you.