Many people believe when heroin hit the suburbs happened when prescription drug use became problematic.

Heroin is an illegal opioid drug with a long history of abuse and addiction. In the 1960s heroin came to the nation’s attention in a big way, as it was being used heavily in inner cities, but also by many celebrities of the era. Ultimately there were legendary actors and musicians that died as the result of heroin overdoses. Despite the fact that heroin became part of the national consciousness, it wasn’t really thought of as a drug that impacted people in suburbia or even mainstream society. While there was some drug use in the suburbs, heroin just wasn’t a big issue in these areas.

Now, however, that’s changed. Heroin has led to a drug epidemic in every area, including middle-class suburbs. The face of heroin has changed, and it’s led people to fear the impact of this crisis. When heroin hit the suburbs, people started realizing the effect it could have on anyone.

Prescription Painkillers and Heroin

So when did heroin use increase in the suburbs, and how?

Many people believe when heroin hit the suburbs, prescription drug use became problematic. Prescription opioids like oxycodone became more prevalently prescribed and ultimately abused in the 1990s. These drugs were all too commonly given by doctors for everything from dental pain to injuries from accidents.

Prescription opioids, much like heroin, are incredibly addictive and people who use them, even as prescribed, are at a high risk of developing a physical dependence on them.

As the available prescription opioids increased even in the suburbs, people began abusing them, both with and without a prescription. The feeling of being high on heroin is similar to being high on prescription opioids.

After a person develops a pill addiction they often move on to heroin because it’s cheaper and easier to get. For example, you can get heroin for around $5 a bag in most places in the country, whereas prescription opioids can cost as much as $100 per pill. It’s believed that this transition is to blame for the rise in heroin use in suburban areas.

Exploring When Heroin Hit the Suburbs

Up until the time when heroin hit the suburbs, it was seen as somewhat of a low-class drug. It was also something that was seen as being preferred by the fringe elements of society, including people in the art and music scene.

By the 2010s, that all changed. Today, there are constant barrages of images of people using heroin and overdosing in public, in cars and seemingly everywhere and more often than not these images include people who are in their 20s. They’re also often located in unsuspecting areas of the country, such as the suburban communities of the Midwest. For example, communities throughout Ohio have been especially hard hit by the opioid epidemic.

As a result of heroin coming to the suburbs, more people are pushing for opioid addiction to be viewed as a public health crisis, rather than a crisis of the criminal justice system. Local, state and federal government officials are trying to find ways to curb the use of heroin and other opioids and also stop the spikes in overdoses and deaths.

Megan Hull
Editor – Megan Hull
Megan Hull is a content specialist who edits, writes and ideates content to help people find recovery. Read more
Jessica Pyhtila
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Jessica Pyhtila, PharmD
Dr. Jessica Pyhtila is a Clinical Pharmacy Specialist based in Baltimore, Maryland with practice sites in inpatient palliative care and outpatient primary care at the Department of Veteran Affairs. Read more
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The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.