Young Heroin Users Have Little Knowledge About the Drug and its Effects

Young people who begin using heroin generally are unaware of the drug’s dangerous effects, according to a new study. Researchers interviewed 15 current and former heroin users in the suburbs of Chicago, ages 22 to 31. When they began using heroin, around age 18, most believed that if they snorted or sniffed the drug they were less likely to become addicted.

“These young people didn’t know what they were getting into,” lead researcher Kathie Kane-Willis of the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy at Roosevelt University told the Courier-News. “They didn’t understand when they tried heroin how easy it would be for them to become dependent, and they didn’t know how severe the withdrawal symptoms could be.”

Almost two-thirds of the study participants said they tried heroin after first using prescription pain drugs, or to “come down” from cocaine use.

More than three-quarters either said they had a mental health condition—such as anxiety, ADHD, depression or bipolar disorder—or exhibited signs of having a mental health disorder during the interview process.

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    December 30, 2011 at 3:42 AM

    Good Article, thank you. This is a very real fact in addictions of all sorts. Addicts don’t realize that they are going to become addicted to a drug, they experiment and think that they are stronger then the drug itself. Not realizing that they are playing a game of Russian Roulette.

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    October 26, 2011 at 7:07 PM

    I was one of these kids, and now have 2 years sober at the age of 28. I think that they should have some one on one counseling for an hour or so with each kid in school with someone that has been an addict of some kind. That is what worked for me anyways. I got help with a one on one guy after going thru so many rehabs and not getting it. I wish that I had the chance to go back and of having someone teach me what I was to become. Now I get my high in helping those kids that need it, just like I did.

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    Steve Castleman

    October 21, 2011 at 2:18 PM

    Studies like this illustrate how poor a job we do of educating people, particularly kids, about drug use and abuse. We need to provide them with a basic understanding of the science of addiction: how drugs affect the brain; why drugs are addictive; why some people get addicted while others don’t; what the symptoms of addiction are; what to do if they identify those symptoms in their friends or themselves, etc. For a website that addresses these questions (from the perspective of an alcoholic with long-term sobriety), check out

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