Drug epidemics have come and gone many times in the United States throughout its history, but the heroin epidemic of today has taken such a stronghold that we might have to switch to a less conventional and less popular approach to resolving this issue . Heroin use is mostly synonymous with famous actors, actresses and musicians and their untimely deaths. People such as John Belushi, Janice Joplin, Chris Farley, River Phoenix, Shannon Honn (lead singer of Blind Melon) and the most recent addition that has brought heroin back into the spotlight is the recent death of one of the most beloved actors and producers of his time, Phillip Seymour Hoffman. If we get away from the famous individuals that are in and out of rehab and can pay out incredible amounts of money towards the drug itself, and all the other associated risks involved, we get to the millions of nameless, faceless addicts that society doesn’t pay much attention to until unknowingly affected by it themselves, and when so many people can be affected by something they are not actively participating in, that is a problem that needs to be addressed and some sort of action is a must. This is where the debate of the needle exchange program, or NEP’s (community-based initiatives that allow intravenous (IV) drug users to exchange used syringes for clean, sterile ones in an effort to stem the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B, C and other blood-borne pathogens) enter the conversation. The NEP is a program that is always met with large amounts of opposition by the public as well as government apprehension. Considering the recent increases in heroin addiction, many cities all over the world have reluctantly started their own form of a Needle Exchange Program. When it comes to the needle exchange program there are many valid arguments for the opposition, but the facts are that with heroin use spiking higher and quicker than ever before, along with the statistics showing that NEP’s not only lowers the spread of disease but have also shown to lower overdose deaths, as well as the studies that show that people are more likely to change their lives after their encounters with NEP’s, it is imperative that the Needle Exchange Program continue to be funded by the United States Government.
In the 1970s and 80’s, Heroin, which was the DOC (drug of choice) among celebrities and inner-city addicts alike but its popularity declined in the 1980s as the HIV/AIDS crisis brought worries of infection-carrying needles and therefore the crack, the cheap substitute for the, “addict on a budget,” but now experts say, heroin is officially back. (NyTimes.com, 1994) That article was written back in 1994 when there was apparently what appeared to be the beginning of what was going to be an epidemic but what we have now is a perfect storm for the return of the overwhelming popularity of heroin. From 2007 to 2012, the number of Americans using heroin nearly doubled, from 373,000 to 669,000, according to the federal government’s most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, released last fall.(Mail Online) Drug officials say the recent rise in heroin use across the US over the last few years comes as a result of prescription drug abuse, with pill addicts getting the same high from heroin at a much cheaper price. The main cause of the latest and most powerful resurgence can be mostly attributed to the combination involving a crackdown on illegal 'pill mills' producing prescription drugs like OxyContin, which gives same high as heroin, pill addicts have turned to heroin because it’s cheaper and available, and it is now even popular in rural and suburban areas, not just inner city and users can single hits for as little as eight dollars, while drug cartels are continuously pushing ever-larger amounts across the Southwestern border. (Placeholder1) When you take these facts and place them in the equation that tells how many people that try heroin that