In what could be a major tool in the war against the opioid epidemic in the United States, researchers at the FIU International Forensic Research Institute (IFRI) have discovered a distinctive component of heroin, which holds the potential to direct law enforcement authorities to its source of origin. Once validated for its effectiveness, this new tool could be the key to tackle the opioid crisis. “The DEA wanted to know specifically whether elemental analysis could determine where heroin was coming from,” said Joshua DeBord, a student at FIU, who is examining the research findings.
Analyzing the chemical structure of heroin provided valuable insights about the processing techniques adopted to convert opium poppies into the drug. However, as heroin producers from different regions follow similar procedures to manufacture the drug, it may be a challenge to identify the origin of the samples. The researchers were able to find something unique in heroin that a typical manufacturer would care about, such as the ratio of radiogenic strontium isotopes, which occur naturally in bedrock.
Studies suggest strontium isotopes occur in diverse ratios among geographic regions depending upon the nature of geologic formation. Therefore, using heroin samples of known geographic origin provided to them by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the researchers were able to measure ratios of strontium isotopes in samples known to come from the four distinct regions. According to IFRI Director Jose Almirall, the chief investigator of the study, the team has developed time-tested analytical mechanisms to determine the amounts of trace elements in the heroin at microscopic levels as well as estimate strontium ratios.
Experts say Mexico, South America, Southeast Asia and Southwest Asia have earned the ill-repute of being the world’s largest heroin producers. If DEA agents can establish where heroin entering the United States is being produced, they can effectively support domestic and foreign law enforcement efforts to prevent drug trafficking and abuse.
Heroin addiction is rampant in America
Rising heroin addiction is aggravating the existing misery of millions of users in a nation that is already reeling under a ruthless opioid epidemic. A depressant drug known for its exceptionally addictive characteristics, heroin use has increased manifold across the U.S. among all age groups. The drug can be injected, snorted or smoked.
Addiction to heroin has assumed the proportions of an epidemic in the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heroin overdose death rates increased by 20.6 percent from 2014 to 2015 and nearly 13,000 people lost their lives in 2015 alone. The number of heroin-related fatal overdoses has jumped fourfold since 2010. Owing to the dangerous consequences of heroin misuse, it has been classified as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
The health hazards resulting from heroin abuse can be life-wrecking. Long-term heroin use can build an individual’s tolerance to the drug, leading to a deadly overdose and subsequent death. Over time, prolonged use can increase users’ vulnerability to multiple health issues such as infection of the heart lining, abscesses, collapsed veins, liver diseases, etc. Moreover, long-term use involving sharing of infected syringes can also increase the risk of HIV/AIDS.
Combating addiction can be a demanding task, given that heroin users tend to manifest compulsive drug-seeking behavior despite being aware of its detrimental effects. Though researchers are continuously striving toward discovering alternative therapies to deal with the menace of drug addiction, the secret to curbing addiction lies in educating people about it.
Heroin addiction is treatable
Studies show millions of Americans fall prey to heroin addiction faster than they might ever realize, as the lethal white powder makes inroads into newer neighborhoods of U.S. cities affecting people of all ethnic and social backgrounds alike. The only way to break free from the shackles of the drug is to undergo a customized heroin detox program at a reputed heroin addiction treatment center in California or other parts of the country to combat the devastating effects of the drug.
Sovereign Health understands the misery of someone who finds it tough to put an end to the use of deadly drugs. Sovereign Health of San Clemente’s customized recovery programs are designed to treat the person holistically. If you or your loved one is battling addiction to heroin, call our 24/7 helpline or chat online to know more about our state-of-the-art heroin treatment centers spread across California.