Heroin Use Among High School Teenagers

2021-05-06 16:28:51
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The use of heroin has reached catastrophic levels in the United States (Sederer, 2016). Unfortunately, most teenagers in high school level are experimenting with the drug as it has become more readily available. Today, teenagers can easily acquire the life-threatening drug from their friends and peers without too much effort. As the number of teen heroin users increase, so does the concern of the effects of heroin abuse on the rest of their lives. Understanding how heroin use can affect any teenager may aid in saving the lives of kids heading towards addiction.

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Problem Statement

Over the past four years, heroin abuse among high school kids has held steadily. The statistical level of this category of users has only manifested slight rises and falls. In the recent studies on the subject, the principal noticeable trend is that there is a leap from 1.3 percent of eighth graders and 1.3 percent of tenth grades who abuse heroin. The trend was also manifested by a leap of 1.6 percent of twelfth graders who abused the drug. It is evident that teens at the later years of high school are at a higher risk of exposure to, and use of, the drug.

This research will purpose at finding out the key causes of the increasing trend of heroin usage by high school teenagers. The causes will be analyzed depending on the level of their contribution to the heroin problem among teenagers. The research will also target to evaluate the best methods to use in curbing out this problem in the learning institutions. This is both in the high school students school and home environments. The final objective of this research will be to determine the effectiveness of the strategies employed in eradicating heroin usage in high schools.

Overview of Supporting Research

A research conducted by the New York University on December 1, 2015, indicated that most heroin users in high school level started with popping bills (NYU, 2015). According to the research, approximately three-quarters of heroin users in high school started with Prescription Opioids. It was also evidenced that nearly twenty-five percent of seniors who abused prescription opioids for more than forty times also used heroin. Such opioids included painkillers and narcotics. The research found out that prescription drugs such as OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet have become widely used in high school institutions.

According to the research, the nonmedical usage of prescription opioids has become problematic in the nation. Numerous cases have been reported in the health facilities in the form of overdoses, hospital admissions and even death. In this research, the associations between the frequency of use of opioids and heroin were conducted. In a different study published by Joseph J. Palamar in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence also indicated the link between the nonmedical use of opioids and heroin in high school students (NYU, 2015). The sociodemographic correlates of the usage of various opioids and heroin were also examined.

In 2015, a different study pertaining to heroin use among high school students was also conducted. The research aimed at investigating nonmedical opioid usage and heroin usage using a nationally representative sample of the US high school seniors (NYU, 2015). The research used statistical data from Monitoring the Future (MTF). MTF is an annual nationwide study of the behaviors, values, and attitudes of the US secondary school students (NIDA, 2016). The MTF study is carried out in approximately one hundred and thirty public and private high schools. This is across the forty-eight states in the US (NIDA, 2016).

During the research, 12.4% of high students reported having had a lifetime usage of nonmedical opioid. Only 1.2% reported having had a lifetime problem of heroin use (NYU, 2015). According to the research, as the regularity of lifetime opioid usage increased so too did the likelihood of reporting heroin usage. Three-quarters of lifetime heroin users in high school also confessed to having had a lifetime usage of nonmedical opioid. During the MTF research, approximately fifteen thousand high school seniors are assessed each year. In the opioids and heroin usage research, the MTF responses (N = 67,822) was used (NYU, 2015). The responses were from 2009 to 2013.

Theoretical Base for the Research Plan

Heroin also referred as smack is among the most often misused drug in the opioid class. The drug is fast acting and highly addictive. It is processed from morphine, which is a natural compound obtained from seeds of particular poppy plants. Although opioids are used to treat various medical conditions, heroin is illegal and possess no medical values. The effects of the drug in the body are caused due to its actions on the bodys opioid receptor cells. Opioid receptors are naturally binding locations for endorphins. The drug blocks the transmission of signals to the brain and allows a person to perceive pain. Also, it creates a general feeling of well-being and sometimes euphoria.

Statistics of Heroin Abuse

It is estimated that approximately nine point two million persons around the world use heroin. In 2011, approximately one point six percent or four point two million Americans, over twelve years of age, had used heroin at least once in their lives. Among them, approximately twenty-three percent later became addicted to the drug. In a research carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on heroin use in the US revealed a sizeable increment in the number of public heroin abusers. The academic research carried by the CDC between 2002 and 2013 indicated a 63% percent increase in the number of heroin users in the nation (Brooks, 2015).

The statistical data recorded on the Monitoring the Study and National Research on Drug Use and Health also indicated a significant growth in the number of heroin users in the nation. The data was compiled by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA, 2015). The report can be illustrated by the tabular charts below.

Monitoring the Future Research Report for 2015 in Percentage

Type of Opioid Period of Usage 8th Graders 10th Graders 12th Graders

Heroin Lifetime [0.50] 0.70 0.80

Last one year [0.30] 0.50 0.50

Last one month 0.10 0.20 0.30

National Survey on Drug Use and Health Report for 2015 in Percentage

Type of Opioid Period of Usage Age 12 or Older Age 12 to 17 Age 18 to 25

Heroin Lifetime 1.80 0.10 2.00

Last one year [0.30] 0.10 0.80

Last one month [0.20] 0.10 0.20

The graph illustrates past months and past years usage of heroin among individuals aged twelve or older. This is for the period starting from 2002 to 2012 (NIDA, 2014).

Theoretical Findings on Causes of Heroin Abuse

Theoretical research indicates that although there exist numerous contributors to heroin abuse, the great contributing factor is an abuse of other opioids. In most cases, the teens take the opioids to ease headaches and other pains while they are in a school environment. If their usage of opioids is recurrent, more often than not, they might end up trying heroin. The drug is a crippling opioid for high school teenagers since it is just hard to overcome once an addiction develops. An addiction can develop right from the first use.

Prescription opioids are among the three broad categories of medication that pose abuse liability. The other two are central nervous system (CNS) depressants as well as other stimulants (Volkow, 2014). There are various factors that backed up the relentlessness of the prescription opioids abuse problem. The factors include the radical increase in the number of prescriptions drugs written and dispensed to the public. The second factor is the large social acceptability for using the prescribed medications for various purposes. The final factor is the aggressive marketing for the prescription opioids performed by the manufacturing pharmaceutical companies.

All these factors have aided in developing the vast environmental availability of the opioids analgesics among other prescription medications. As an illustration of this point, the total sum of opioids prescribed as pain relievers in the US has risen steeply in the past twenty-five years. The volume of prescriptions for opioids such as hydrocodone and oxycodone products have risen from around seventy-six million in 1991 to approximately two hundred and seven million in 2013 (Volkow, 2014). The US has been the biggest consumer around the world, accounting for almost one hundred percent of the global total prescriptions for hydrocodone products such as Vicodin. It also makes approximately eighty-one percent for oxycodone products such as Percocet.

Research Questions

Qualitative Research Questions

These research questions will seek to ascertain the primary reasons why there is an increased usage of heroin among teenagers at the high school level. Some of the exploratory research questions to be used in this context will include; what is the contribution of opioid usage to heroin addiction among teenagers? Why has the usage of heroin among teenagers in the US high school level escalated to catastrophic levels? What influences the level of heroin addiction among the high school teenagers from the moment they first abuse the drug? Which forms of opioid compounds whose abuse contributes greatly to the abuse of heroin by the high school students?

Quantitative Research Questions

These research questions will seek to evaluate the statistical data pertaining heroin abuse by high school teenagers. The questions will be founded on various statistical research performed on heroin abuse in the US since 1991. Some of the quantitative exploratory questions to be used in this section will include; what is the proportion of the US high school teenagers who abuse heroin? What is the annual percentage increase in the number of heroin abusers between the age of twelve and seventeen? What is the percentage increase in opioids usage from 1991 to 2016? What is the percentage of high school students in the US reported to have a lifetime usage of opioids including heroin?


The core goal of this research is to validate the following statistical reports. The percentage of high school heroin abusers in the US has increased by 65% from 1991 to 2016. The alarming trend is greatly attributed to the abuse of other prescription opioids such as Vicodin and Percocet. Approximately 12.4% of high school students in the US have been reported to have a lifetime abuse of nonmedical opioids. From this sample, 1.2% of the students reported having a lifetime abuse of heroin. Ultimately, the number of teenagers heroin users in the US has increased by 63% from 2002 to 2013.



This research will feature senior high school students in approximately one hundred and thirty public and private high schools located in the forty-eight states in the US. The research will be facilitated and supported by forty-eight Monitoring the Future (MTF) representatives located in MTF centers in all the forty-eight states of the US. The research will also host twenty-five National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) representatives. NIDA is a federal-government research institution that aims at bringing the power of science into fighting drug abuse and addiction (The National Institutes of Health, 2005). All the representatives took part in past surveys aimed at researching the effects of drug abuse among high school teenagers.


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