Hillbilly Heroin | What is it and is it an Epidemic?
The opioid epidemic in the U.S. is well documented at this point. It’s no longer something that isn’t talked about, or that can go under the radar. The use of opioids, including prescription narcotics and heroin, has become so prevalent that it’s on the national stage and U.S. politicians are constantly talking about ways to curb the epidemic, but finding that thus far they’ve had little success.
There are plenty of reasons given for the rise of the opioid epidemic, including the high rates at which prescription painkillers were given to patients, and the effects of the Great Recession, as well as the struggles faced in many areas to regain sources of employment.
A derivative of the larger opioid epidemic is the epidemic of something dubbed “Hillbilly Heroin.”
The term Hillbilly Heroin refers to the drug oxycodone or OxyContin, and there are specific reasons it’s been nicknamed this.
Oxycodone comes in single ingredient medicines, and it’s also often included in combination medicines.
As with other opioids, oxycodone does have euphoric effects, particularly when it’s taken in higher doses, and this is why it’s so often abused. Along with euphoria, when someone takes oxycodone they may experience relaxation, drowsiness, slowed breathing and functionality, and they may intermittently nod off. Other side effects of oxycodone include nausea, vomiting, constipation, dizziness, itching and dry mouth.
Overdose is possible with oxycodone, as with heroin and other opioids. An overdose occurs when someone who’s not tolerant to opioids or who takes a high dose then has shallow or stopped breathing as a result of the drug on their central nervous system. Other signs of an opioid overdose can include cold or clammy skin, having a bluish tint, pinpoint pupils, and losing consciousness.
The moniker Hillbilly Heroin relates to the fact that the poor man’s version of heroin. There’another element to the name as well, however.
In past decades drug use was often thought of as being related to urban areas and poor inner cities. One example was the crack epidemic of the 1980s, which was almost entirely linked to inner cities. The heroin use of the 90s was associated more with the grunge fringe that grew out of areas like Seattle.
There wasn’t a big ideological link between drug use and rural areas until the opioid epidemic. For example, OxyContin is a huge problem in the eastern United States, and in particular Appalachian communities that are located in rural areas not normally associated with drugs and high crime levels. OxyContin addiction has been estimated to be associated with a significant majority of crime in these rural areas. The use of Hillbilly Heroin has also been linked to an enormous number of overdoses, deaths, car accidents and suicides.
People in many of these rural communities, many of which were hit hard by the decline of the coal industry and Great Recession, will often do anything to get more OxyContin, and that’s what leads to the spike in crime associated with its use. Crimes can include theft, prescription fraud and more.
Some of the blame for the Hillbilly Heroin epidemic is likely because of the number of people that were injured on the job when they worked in mining and other similar high-risk occupations throughout the areas hard hit by this drug. They would be prescribed these powerful opioids, and ultimately it would not only turn into an addiction for the injured people, but it also made these drugs readily available in medicine cabinets to teens and family members.
As a result of frequent robberies, many pharmacies in the Appalachian valleys stopped stocking OxyContin, and a lot of addicts would rely on doctor shopping. When doctors were rumored to be lax with their prescribing of OxyContin, they would often become overwhelmed by patients seeking it.
Now, Hillbilly Heroin isn’t something reserved for Appalachian towns. It’s a problem throughout the country, and it’s spreading to other areas of the world such as the UK.
Policymakers look for ways to curb the use of opioids, but in the meantime, these drugs continue to lead to countless deaths, and they wreak havoc on lives, families and entire communities.
Have more questions about Heroin abuse?Read the most frequently asked questions
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