There are many opposing viewpoints when it comes to the recent novel COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak, which can be partially attributed to media sensationalism. While there is a lot of accurate information in circulation, there is even more misinformation circulating the internet and other media outlets. I’ve seen some numbers that are blown way out of proportion, some images that are from entirely different time periods, and a host of claims from Facebook friends about government hoaxes and conspiracy theories. Something I have seen shared several times is a question along the lines of, “Heroin kills more people than the coronavirus does… how come no one is posting about that?” The truth of the matter is, the national heroin epidemic does not kill more people than the coronavirus, considering that the first documented case of this specific strain of virus was recorded in Snohomish County, Washington on Jan. 19 of this year. Maybe when the coronavirus first started making its way through the United States heroin was still responsible for more daily deaths, but not currently. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in 2018, nearly 15,000 people died from a heroin-related overdose death throughout the country. This number equates to roughly five deaths per every 100,000 citizens. The CDC also noted that heroin-related deaths were on the decline, having declined a total of 4.1 percent from 2017 to 2018. Thus far, COVID-19 has killed 12,875 people in the United States (as of Tue., April 6). This is the number of heroin-related deaths over the course of twelve months, as opposed to the number of virus-related deaths over the course of four months. At this time, a comparison cannot be made because a year has not passed, and there is no conclusive evidence available.
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Pandemic VS. Epidemic
It is also important to note the distinction between an epidemic and a pandemic. Heroin-related deaths have been considered a national epidemic for years. Overdose deaths are considered a public health emergency in many regions throughout the country. Heroin addiction is an epidemic while COVID-19 in a pandemic – the two words have different meanings and cannot be used interchangeably. An epidemic disease is one that affects many people simultaneously, and spreads from one person to another in a community or region where the disease isn’t always prevalent. Heroin addiction is passed from one person to another if we’re being literal – heroin is sold by dealers and purchased by users, and introduced to potential users by current users… so on. Heroin addiction is not contagious, though drug addiction is absolutely a disease by medical standards. Communities have the ability to stop epidemics – epidemics are temporary and can be controlled or eradicated with enough effort.
A pandemic, on the other hand, is an epidemic that has moved beyond a community or region and into a much larger area. COVID-19 is a global pandemic, meaning that it is rapidly spreading across the world. Unlike heroin addiction, this virus is extremely contagious, and those who are exposed are liable to face serious health-related complications (and death, if the complications are severe enough). It is unlikely that within a matter of months the entire human race will be gravely affected by heroin addiction. This is not to minimize the impact that heroin addiction and drug-related overdose have on states, communities, and families. This is simply to further suggest that comparing heroin overdoses to COVID-19 deaths makes very little sense, seeing as the two are completely different animals.
The Issue of a “Cure”
There are several other issues with this specific comparison. First of all, while becoming addicted to heroin is certainly not a choice, an individual does initially choose to pick up and use the drug. Using heroin the first time is a choice. After that, the body and mind may take over and a physical dependency might develop. We believe that physical dependency is not a choice; not in the slightest. On the other hand, those that are exposed to and contract COVID-19 have absolutely no choice in the matter. In fact, most people are undergoing extreme measures to protect themselves and others in attempts to slow the spread of the virus. There is also the matter of a “cure.” Is there a simple cure for heroin addiction? No. But there is a formula that is known to work; that has worked for thousands of recovered heroin addicts across the country. At Intrepid Detox Residential we have witnessed this formula work firsthand – in fact, many of our staff members have experienced recovery themselves by following the same treatment program. Medical detox, inpatient drug rehab, sober living and a long-term aftercare plan (like continued therapy, daily attendance at 12 step meetings, etc.) is proven to work as far as the maintenance of long-term sobriety. While there is no simple cure for drug addiction, there is a program of treatment that has been proven time and time again to work.
As far as COVID-19 goes, there is no known solution.
Heroin Addiction VS. COVID-19
At Intrepid Detox Residential we believe that heroin-related overdoses should be making headlines – we believe that heroin addiction is a national epidemic that must be continuously addressed and brought to people’s attention. There is still a shocking amount of stigma surrounding addiction as a whole, and we will continue working to combat the circulation of misinformation and unfair judgment. While we also believe that comparing heroin addiction to the current global pandemic makes little sense, we are aware that there are some significant ties between the two. A recent study published by Annals of Internal Medicine suggested that those suffering from substance abuse disorders are more susceptible to coronavirus-related complications than members of the general population. There are also major issues when it comes to individuals who struggle with heroin abuse seeking adequate treatment for any symptoms they might start to exhibit. Heroin addiction is a baffling and powerful disease, and those who are in the throes of addiction aren’t likely to stop using drugs and seek medical care – no matter how sharply their health is declining. Those struggling with heroin addiction commonly face a host of other serious issues that might prevent them from seeking professional medical help if they do contract the virus, including financial instability, homelessness, and a general inability to recognize the symptoms for what they are. For example, someone who is actively using heroin might experience flu-like symptoms whenever they begin to withdraw, and might confuse withdrawal with COVID-19.
At Intrepid Detox Residential we understand the gravity of heroin addiction and we prioritize the safety of our residents. Seeing as drug addiction treatment is an essential service, our doors are open to those who are in need of professional help. We are also taking every possible precaution to ensure that our residents are healthy. Our experienced and professional medical staff members check temperatures and take the vitals of residents regularly. We follow CDC recommendations as they are updated, and we sterilize everything that our residents have access to. We no longer transport our residents off-site, and we no longer allow guest speakers or caregivers into our residence. The health of our residents is always our top priority.
If you are struggling with a heroin addiction (or an addiction of any kind), we are available to help. Give us a call at any time to learn more about our comprehensive program of drug addiction recovery. We look forward to speaking with you soon!