October 22, 2014 Healthy Living

Combat Heroin: Know Where to Find Help

Heroin addiction can happen to anyone. Be knowledgeable and prepared to help your loved ones avoid this serious and growing problem. An informational website called Combat Heroin, recently launched by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, is a great place to start.

Many people start out by taking pain medications—such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, and fentanyl—for medical reasons, but gradually find themselves misusing the pills as a way to become high or “numb.” Nonmedical use of prescription opioids is a major issue by itself, but it can also lead to heroin addiction, as the users may find it difficult to continue obtaining prescription medicine and turn to cheaper, more readily available street drugs.

Its intense high, coupled with its short half life, makes heroin a very addicting drug. People who use it can quickly become psychologically and physically dependent, developing intense cravings and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop.

Keep Your Family Safe

Talk to your kids about the dangers of all types of drugs. Don’t preach, but make sure they know where you stand on this. Children of parents who are more involved are less likely to use drugs. An engaged parent is also more likely to notice the warning signs of substance use.

Store all prescription medications safely in your home and dispose of unused pills appropriately at medication drop boxes.

The Warning Signs

Pay attention to changes in the physical appearance and behavior of family members. The following symptoms could be “red flags” indicating drug use:

  • Small pupils
  • Decreased respiratory rate
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss or increase in appetite; unexplained weight loss or gain
  • Isolation and secretive behavior, avoiding contact with family
  • Changes in friends, hangouts, and activities
  • Drop in grades or work performance
  • Moodiness, irritability, nervousness, giddiness
  • Missing medications, possessions, or money
  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts in warm weather

Confronting a Suspected Addict

If you think a family member or friend is abusing narcotics, ask the person what is going on, and listen to the answer. They may deny that there is a problem. If so, don’t argue or alienate them by becoming judgmental. But don’t give up, either. Take steps to make their drug use more difficult and be firm in letting them know that help is an option.

Your loved one may readily admit that there is a problem and be relieved that you are willing to help. If so, be ready to make a call to your doctor or health plan to seek treatment advice. You can also dial 1-877-8-HOPENY or visit the New York State Hopeline for direction. For CDPHP members, the number to call is 1-888-320-9584. Don’t be afraid to make the call. The health of your family and community depends on it.


Combat Heroin
NYS Troopers drug drop boxes
New York State Hopeline

Anne Fernandez
About the Author

Dr. Fernandez joined CDPHP in 2012 as a medical director in the behavioral health department. Previously, she worked as a psychiatrist at St. Peter’s Healthcare in Albany and St. Peter’s Addiction Recovery Center clinics throughout the Capital District. Dr. Fernandez received a medical degree from SUNY Stony Brook, an MBA in health systems administration from Union College, a master’s in science and technology studies from RPI, and a bachelor’s degree from Vassar College. She is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology.

One Response to “Combat Heroin: Know Where to Find Help”

  1. MG

    Today’s Times Union story of a Colonie mom who lost her teen daughter to a heroin overdose is a stark reminder that heroin addiction is very real and very dangerous.

Get our favorite local activities, health tips
and more, each month.