The National Institute for Drug Abuse has compiled statistics that paint a troubling picture of opiate use in St. Louis, Missouri; namely, that the number of patients who underwent treatment for opiates has been steadily increasing throughout the years. Heroin alone caused about 117 cases of death during the first half of 2013, with a staggering number of 2,274 users admitted to drug rehab in Missouri.
Heroin is more prevalent than any other drug in the opiate family because it’s less expensive and remains consistently available and easily accessible to drug addicts. Other opiate, non-heroin drugs have a relatively low number of treatment admissions, reaching about 254 patients in 2013. What’s disturbing about this data, though, is that about 24% of opiate users in St. Louis are under the age of 24, meaning that opiates are most popular among adolescents and young adults who acquire it for recreational use.
Erik Erikson, a renowned psychologist, developed a theory on the stages of man’s psychosocial development. The last stage, occurring in old age, is all about inner reflection where pride, or guilt and remorse preoccupy people’s thoughts in their twilight years. The latter feelings can easily spiral down into deep depression and despair. According to Abby Ellin of The New York Times, the feeling of shame and loneliness, compounded by retirement and divorce, that befalls many elderly people could for them easily build to a point where they can’t cope well enough at this stage, which has led many of them to escape to worsening substance abuse.
About 2.8 million older adults in the United States meet the criteria for alcohol abuse, and the number is expected to increase in the following years. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 231,000 people in America over the age of 50 have sought help for their addiction.