The Changing Face of Heroin Addicts

As the world becomes increasingly connected, as the internet becomes an increasingly important part of everyone’s daily life, the typical heroin addict is changing.

Now don’t get me wrong, I doubt the internet is the main reason the demographic of heroin addicts is changing, but I do think it plays a part. as information about heroin, painkillers, and other drugs is spread across the web, more and more nontraditional addicts are born.

The massive gentrification of American society, and the resulting massive wealth gap, also plays a part. I’m speaking from personal experience here. Growing up in a typical, boring suburban town made the allure of drugs all the greater. And no drug had a greater allure than heroin.

Of course, there’s a difference between me and many other people – I’m an addict and alcoholic. I tried anything and everything to change the way I felt. Of all the chemicals I tried, opioids did the best job.

So no, the internet and an increasingly gentrified society aren’t to blame for the recent spike in heroin addiction, but they do play a role.

What Makes a Heroin Addict?

As recently as ten to fifteen years ago, heroin addicts were thought of as homeless, mentally ill, disheveled individuals. They were all assumed to live under bridge and panhandle for money. They were assumed to be violent, or at best unstable, and beyond aid.

Today, that stereotype couldn’t be further from the truth. Today’s heroin addicts are largely middle class kids in their twenties and thirties. To put it another way, the millennial generation might as well be called the heroin generation. Sound a bit over the top? Well it isn’t.

Consider that among eighteen to twenty-six year olds heroin is one of the only drugs that’s increasing in use. It’s one of the most popular drugs, behind only marijuana, painkillers, and spice (synthetic cannabis).

Consider that today’s heroin is so pure users don’t need to inject it. In years past, heroin was under 10% pure. This meant the only way for heroin addicts to really “feel” the drug was via injection. With today’s heroin being around 50% pure, new users can simply snort or smoke the drug. This decreases the taboo associated with the drug and leads potential users to try it.

Of course, there’s another factor that influences potential heroin users. I’m talking, of course, about famous heroin addicts.

Famous Heroin Addicts

Heroin has a mystique of hipness around it. This is due in no small part to the many famous heroin addicts who have abused the drug. Smart, creative, attractive, and influential people have all contributed to the “sexiness” of heroin.

Don’t believe me? Think I’m making a bit of a stretch? Google “famous heroin addicts” and see what pops up. More to the point, consider that an entire fashion movement sprang up around the emaciated look common to heroin users. It was called heroin chic.

So, who are these famous heroin addicts? Well, they range from rock stars to actors to writers and beyond. Jim Morrison, William Burroughs, Kurt Cobain, Courtney Love, Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday, and Chris Farley all had one thing in common. They were all heroin addicts.

Their creativity was often attributed to their opioid use. This, in turn, led heroin to be thought of as some sort of artistic muse. It’s a misconception that persists to this day. I’m sure the myth of the famous heroin addict has also played a part in heroin’s booming popularity.

How to Help the New Heroin Addict

Okay, heroin is popular. That point has been driven home by this article and, more importantly, by a generation of heroin addicts. So, how can we help the “new” heroin user? How can we offer hope to those who so desperately need it?

The answer is actually rather simple. We let heroin addicts know that recovery is possible. That’s it, nothing more and nothing less.

Treatment centers need to be more than simply havens for those struggling with substance abuse. They need to be institutes in every sense of the word. They need to shout from the mountaintops that sobriety is possible for everyone.

Individuals who have successfully kicked their addiction also need to speak up. I’ll use myself as an example. I’m an individual in long-term recovery and I take every opportunity offered to make that fact known. I don’t walk around town with a sign over my head, but I don’t shy away from mentioning my past if it’ll help someone else.

With treatment centers offering a message of recovery, and with sober individuals living a message of recovery, change can’t help but come. It’s that simple my friends. I promise.


We are proud to feature this guest blog post by Fiona Stockard. Fiona has been in recovery for over 5 years and now works at a Florida addiction rehab, helping addicts recover each day by delivering her message of strength and hope.

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