You may have heard people refer to heroin usage in the United States as an epidemic. Are they just being dramatic and blowing things out of proportion? Or has there really been a deep and fundamental change in the way that Americans use this drug, despite the fact that it remains illegal to do so?

The reality is that times have changed. The signs are clear. And the epidemic is real.

New user groups

One important factor to consider is that groups of people have started using heroin that never would have before. The old stereotypes of typical users no longer fit. The drug has spread.

For instance, reports indicate that most age groups have gotten involved. Both men and women use heroin at an increased rate. Income level does not seem to matter much; usage has increased for the rich, the poor and everyone in between.

Even some groups that rarely used heroin, historically speaking, have started using it. Women, for instance, used to stay away from the drug but now show one of the greatest increases in usage rate. The same is true for people in high-income brackets and those who have private insurance.

This really shows that the issue has reached an epidemic proportion because it is spreading and becoming more common throughout all of American society.

Related drugs

Another issue is that many people who use heroin also use other illegal drugs and medications. These include things like cocaine and opioids.

Related drugs can also connect to the epidemic. For instance, someone who never used drugs before may get injured in a car accident. To manage the pain after surgery, they could get opioids. These are completely legal when prescribed by a medical professional.

Unfortunately, they are also quite addictive. People really get hooked on them and cannot quit. When the prescription ends, they may seek illegal means to feed that addiction. In some cases, they also turn to harder drugs like cocaine and heroin.

Addiction is something it feels like society still struggles to understand. You cannot imagine the hold it takes if you have not experienced it for yourself. People will absolutely do things to satisfy a drug addiction that they would never do otherwise. It could lead to theft, embezzlement, drug trafficking and many other related crimes.

You cannot reason with addiction. Are hospitals and their reliance on opioids and hard painkillers feeding this problem?

Your rights

Are you facing drug charges for using or possessing heroin? Understanding the epidemic and the many factors that contribute is just the first step. You also need to understand all of your legal rights.