Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some things you might be curious about...

Is heroin really that big a problem in Jefferson City or Central Missouri?
What happens when you take heroin?
How much does heroin cost?

How do you know if you have a problem with drugs?

For drug treatment to work, doesn't the person have to really want it?

What is drug addiction?

Can drug addiction be cured?

Isn't becoming addicted to a drug just a character flaw?

Are there effective treatments for drug addiction?

Shouldn't treatment for drug addiction be a one-shot deal?

My friends are pressuring me to try heroin. What do I do?
What is the relationship between prescription painkillers and heroin?
What do I do if I have a heroin or prescription painkiller problem?
What is enabling?

Why do some drug users become addicted, while others don't?

Are there resources to help  pay for substance abuse treatment if I have little or no income?

What if I still have more questions?

Is heroin really that big a problem in Jefferson City or Central Missouri?
Heroin is not just a problem in poor or inner-city areas and knows no ethnic boundaries. In 2011 the Jefferson City Police Department began to notice an increase of calls coming into our Communications Center relating to overdoses. When we looked into these cases we saw a large number of them were associated with heroin and related opiates.  In 2008 our drug investigations for Heroin only made up 4% of our total undercover workload.  In 2009 it jumped to 27%, and by 2010 it reached 30% while we experienced a decline in the number of Marijuana and Cocaine cases.  Heroin has now surpassed all other drug investigations in central Missouri as reported by our undercover unit and the Mustang Drug Task Force. 

 (Heroin Overdose Deaths in Missouri) DHSS

What happens when you take heroin?

A person who is under the influence of heroin will display highly lethargic or tired behavior.  With that, slurred or indiscernible speech is common.  Heroin slows users down giving them a feeling of warmth and detachment followed by drowsiness and sedation.  Shortly after using, a feeling of euphoria will come over users, in which they have a warm flushing of the skin, a dry mouth and the feeling of having "heavy" arms and legs.  After the initial rush, users will go into an alternately wakeful and drowsy state which is commonly referred to as being "on the nod”.  Because heroin suppresses the central nervous system, the user will experience depressed respiration, the cause of an overdose death due to suffocation, and "cloudy" mental function which decreases awareness of the outside world.  The narcotic effects of heroin will cause constant scratching at the scalp or skin for no apparent reason and the user’s pupils to become extremely constricted.  The color of the user’s eyes are very noticeable due to the fact the pupil is almost non-existent at first glance.      


How much does Heroin cost?
Prices will vary due to supply and demand but $20 to $30 per ‘shoe’ or bag of heroin are the prices we are hearing the most currently. While that may not sound very expensive, you need to keep in mind that as you continue taking heroin, both the amount you need and the frequency you take it go up. It is not unusual for addicts to spend several hundred dollars a day on heroin. Multiply that by 7 days a week, month after month, and you can easily go through tens of thousands of dollars a year supporting a habit. And that does not include the non-monetary costs associated with potential loss of job, friends, interests and life.

 

How do you know if you have a problem with drugs?

One way to determine if you have a drug problem is to answer honestly some questions about your drug use. Some of the questions you should ask yourself are:

  • Do you spend a lot of time thinking about using drugs?
  • Are you giving up things you used to love because of drugs?
  • Has your drug use caused problems between you and your friends and family?
  • Have you gotten in trouble at school or at work because of your drug use?

Remember that these questions are just a few of the things you should consider. If you think you may have a problem with drugs, talk to a school counselor, doctor or an alcohol and drug counselor, who can help you figure out if you have a substance abuse disorder or if you are addicted and how to get treatment.  You can either email anonymously or call 1-800-575-7480 for assistance.

 

For drug treatment to work, doesn't the person have to really want it?

Most people go into drug treatment either because the court ordered them to do so, or because loved ones urged them to seek treatment. The good news is that, according to scientific studies, people who enter drug treatment programs in which they face “high” pressure" to deal with their addiction can benefit from treatment, regardless of the reason they sought treatment in the first place.

 

What is drug addiction?

Drug addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease that affects the brain and causes compulsive drug-seeking and use despite harmful consequences. Using drugs changes your brain’s structure and function. Addiction is a brain disease because drugs change the brain, they change its structure and how it works. And although the initial decision to take drugs may be voluntary, over time, the changes in your brain can weaken your self-control and ability to make sound decisions, while sending intense impulses to take drugs.

 

Can drug addiction be cured?

Although there is no cure for drug addiction, persons suffering with drug addiction can often recover through treatment provided by a licensed drug treatment facility under the supervision of a medical provider. But it’s not easy and it doesn’t happen overnight. Similar to people with diabetes or heart disease, people in treatment for drug addiction have to modify or change their behavior, and often take medication as part of their treatment.

If you use illegal drugs or abuse substances such as inhalants, prescription drugs, or over the counter medications, you are at risk of becoming addicted.  And if you've heard that marijuana is not addictive, think again.  Research shows that each year more teens enter treatment with a primary diagnosis of marijuana dependence than for all other illicit drugs combined.

 

Isn't becoming addicted to a drug just a character flaw?

The first time people use drugs, it’s usually a conscious decision they’ve made. But once people become addicted, they are dealing with a brain disease. Each drug of abuse has its own individual way of changing how the brain functions. But in most cases, it doesn’t really matter which drug a person is addicted to; many of the effects it has on the brain are similar. The fact is that our brains are wired to make sure we will repeat activities, like eating, by associating those activities with pleasure or reward. Whenever this reward circuit is activated, the brain notes that something important is happening that needs to be remembered, and teaches us to do it again and again, without thinking about it. Because drugs of abuse stimulate the same circuit, we learn to abuse drugs in the same way. So while the initial decision to take drugs is a choice for some, a physical need replaces that choice.  This is what's known as addiction.

 

Are there effective treatments for drug addiction?

Yes, although there is no cure for drug addiction yet. Addiction is a treatable, but often chronic disease. And just as with other chronic diseases, such as diabetes or heart disease, people learn to manage their condition, sometimes with the help of medications. People addicted to drugs can do the same. Drug addiction can be effectively treated with behavioral-based therapies in which people learn to change their behavior; and, for addiction to some drugs, such as tobacco, alcohol, heroin, or other opiate drugs, medications can help. Treatment will vary for each person, depending on the type of drug(s) being abused and the individual’s specific circumstances. For many people with drug addictions, multiple courses of treatment may be needed to achieve success.  Medically based treatment programs that combine 12 Step programs tend to have greater success rates than other types of treatment.

 

Shouldn't treatment for drug addiction be a one-shot deal?

No—it’s like treating a broken bone. Like diabetes and even asthma, drug addiction typically is a chronic disorder. Some people can quit drug use “cold turkey,” or they can quit after receiving treatment just one time at a rehabilitation facility. But most who have become addicted to drugs need longer term treatment and, in many instances, repeated treatments—much like a person who has developed asthma needs to constantly monitor changes in medication and exercise. The important point is that even when someone relapses, they should not give up hope. Rather they need to go back to treatment or modify their current treatment. In fact, setbacks are likely. Even people with diabetes may go off their diet or miss an insulin injection, and their symptoms will recur --

that's a cue to get back on track, not to view treatment as a failure.


My friends are pressuring me to try heroin. What do I do?
It is hard when friends ask you to do something you aren't comfortable with. You may be tempted to give in so you'll fit in, won't be thought of as a wimp or just to get them to stop bugging you about it. Don't give in, especially on something that is so dangerous with life-altering consequeces.  Visit the Youth section of the web site to learn more.

What is the relationship between prescription painkillers and heroin?
It is extremely important to note that approximately half of the young people who use heroin have used prescription painkillers first! Prescription painkillers serve as a frequent ‘gateway’ to heroin for many young people whether they were originally used by prescription or were gotten by other means. You may be most familiar with names such as oxycontin, oxycodone and vicodin. These prescription painkillers, also known as synthetic opiates or opiod analgesics, are a relatively new class of painkillers designed to address chronic pain. They are considered generally safe when prescribed, used as prescribed for short duration and when use is closely monitored. However, these drugs have a significant abuse potential and have become increasingly popular as a means of achieving a high, particularly with young people.

Due to an adolescent’s developing brain and its susceptibility to conform to and become addicted to various drugs that can be prescribed, it is likely that any teen who has one of these painkillers prescribed to them should be very closely monitored by a physician and parent or significant other. This cannot be stated enough. Unless absolutely necessary it is preferable a teen be prescribed a less powerful painkiller.

For anyone taking a strong painkiller the potential for a physical dependency to develop is not unusual. This is not necessarily addiction. With a physician’s assistance, the individual can be weaned off the drug with little or no residual impact. However, for that person who is left on such a drug or is strictly taking such a drug in a recreational manner, the potential for addiction is significant.

What do I do if I have a heroin or prescription painkiller problem?
Seek assistance. Treatment can be very effective for heroin or any other substance-abuse addiction but it requires the individual with the problem to fully dedicate themself to treatment. Addiction disease is a progressive condition. As is the case with most other illnesses, the more advanced it becomes the more difficult it is to treat and recover from. Therefore, the sooner someone reaches out for help the better their chances for a successful outcome. Treatment can be difficult to access and sometimes takes time and a good deal of effort to find, but if someone perseveres and doesn’t give up, even when it’s necessary to wait for an opening in a program, they can and do recover from their addiction. Anyone who has ever successfully completed treatment will tell you that recovery was difficult but that the rewards of recovery are never-ending.

For more information, check out the Resourses section of the website.

What is enabling?
Too often, relatives or friends of addicts, in their own way in an attempt to help, will enable the addict. Enabling is the process of allowing and even encouraging irresponsible and self-destructive behavior in another, through action or inaction, by shielding them from the consequences of their actions. Enabling is when you make excuses or buy into excuses for the addict’s behavior or assist the addict by giving them a place to stay, food or money. In so doing, the ‘enabler’ has unintentionally become part of the problem because they are allowing the addict to continue on with a progressive disease that may well kill them. Even though enabling is often done out of love and with the best of intentions, rarely will it lead to anything other than the addict getting worse.

NCADA has several factsheets on enabling that may be helpful for you to read if you are in this type of situation with a friend or loved one:

 

Why do some drug users become addicted, while others don’t?

As with many other conditions and diseases, vulnerability to addiction differs from person to person. Your genes, mental health, family and social environment all play a role in addiction. Risk factors that increase your vulnerability include:

    • Family history of addiction
    • Abuse, neglect, or other traumatic experiences in childhood
    • Mental disorders such as depression and anxiety
    • Early use of drugs

     

Are there resources to help pay for substance abuse treatment if I have little or no income?

All Missouri state-funded substance abuse treatment programs use a Standard Means Test, which takes into account an individual's ability to pay based on their income.  Using a sliding fee scale, an individual's cost per month of treatment is determined.  So, an individual's cost for treatment is based on their current income and/or other resources such as private insurance.

 

What if I still have more questions?
In the Jefferson City area, the Missouri Division of Alcohol & Drug Abuse is available to answer your questions. You can either email anonymously or call 1-800-575-7480 for assistance. We will answer your questions and help in whatever way we can. Staff are available to take your call 8:00 – 5:00 p.m., Mon-Fri. There is no charge for this service.