Heroin At Sixteen: Defining The Epidemic & Fixing It

It’s no secret that Florida is a massive supplier of our nation’s legal narcotics. Doctors in Florida prescribe more opioids than most other states combined.

By Patrick Jude

I know a lot of people who’ve died from heroin. I sure do hate to say that, and a little more each time the number rises. Can we cut the bullshit? Can we cut the bullshit for one stinging second and say it clearly? The massive increase of heroin use, and consequently overdose, is indelibly linked to our beloved prescriptions. Oxycontin, Percocet, HydroCodone, Codeine, Roxy’s, etcetera, etcetera.

For whatever reason we, as a society, choose to ignore the fact that these “medications” are essentially heroin, even sharing the same molecular structure. Doctors over-prescribe them and dealers supply them, and that’s just how it works.

Unfortunately, experimenting with prescription medications has become a commonplace for America’s youth. I went to school, a B school at the time, and vividly remember students stumbling across halls, one eye lower than the other, and you knew, everyone knew. I’d like to make it perfectly clear that many of these weren’t dull minds, not in the slightest.

Some could play Bach, verbatim, most were Honors students, Blank even landed a full scholarship to study privately abroad. All of them ended up moving on. In their arms they found needles, as they mainlined numbness to where dreams used to be.

Most were eighteen, nineteen.

People think heroin is an expensive drug, it isn’t. Typical terminology includes specific amounts in low monetary increments, a “ten bag”.   It’s actually the medications, once the street has its mark up, which are elaborately expensive. For a single blue Roxy, a potent and widely popular medication, street dealers often set the price as high as $30 a piece. The user, forming physical and psychological addictions, turns to a cheaper means of achieving the exact same high, heroin.

It’s no secret that Florida is a massive supplier of our nation’s legal narcotics. Doctors in Florida prescribe more opioids than most other states combined. Pill mills, as they’re called, are rampant throughout our state, and our politicians allow it. Earlier this month the empty vessel we call a Governor, Rick Scott, dubbed the opioid epidemic a statewide emergency.

A little late considering he’s fought tooth and nail in opposition of a mandatory pill mill database for the last six years. If we can cut the bullshit once again, Rick Scott made his fortune by opening a chain of walk-in clinics prior to attaining office. A conflict of interests has been clear since the beginning, and hopefully we don’t elect a legal drug dealer next time around.

Though not an opioid, Xanax claimed the life of a friend at sixteen. I was a year younger than him at the time. The frailty of life, like shattered glass, gone. It was more than I could comprehend at the time. I didn’t know there were companies making millions, or politicians being lobbied to, I just knew, for the first time in my life, a friend was dead.

Just as much as we need to take a serious look at our state’s egregious overprescribing of opioids, we must address the way we treat its users. Slamming a jail sentence, and a future of felonious checkboxes on job applications does nothing good. I’m aware there’s often a disdain for the rehabilitation theory, but at some point we must ask ourselves, do we truly seek the betterment of our fellow man through legalities?

The group making up the lion’s share of the heroin and opioid epidemic is 18-25, which has doubled in the last decade. If a junkie robs a convenience store for dope money I get it, arrest them. If they’re distributing it, let that same fate await them. If a person’s only crime is inflicting harm upon themselves, however, we must not, for the good of society, aimlessly toss their future.

Heroin deaths have more than quadrupled since 2010.  As a twenty-four year old American, I know six who’ve lost their lives to heroin or opioids, including a baby’s father and mother now resting in graves, none of them made it to twenty-five. I know others who’ve brought their lives back, they work hard, and each day they take successful steps up the steepest of hills.

In blatant honesty, they’re worth more in wisdom than those we’ve elected to power. They understand humanity, and they understand struggle. Their lives make pennies of the millions our wealthiest exploited a generation for.


Born and raised in Orlando, Patrick Jude is a recent graduate of The University Of Central Florida. He holds a B.A. in English Literature as well as an A.A. in Jazz Performance. Jude enjoys performing and is an active musician in Central Florida. As a member of The Getbye he fills the most glorified role of any band…Bass.