NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Heroin-use among middle-class white women, ages 18 to 25, has more than doubled, according to the most recent data available by the Centers for Disease Control.
The CDC says between 2011 to 2013, heroin use among women jumped 100 percent compared to 2002 to 2004.
Use among non-Hispanic whites jumped 114 percent, and those who make $20,000 to $49,999 a year jumped 73 percent.
“I think this particular group gets overlooked because they look like they don’t fit the part,” said Dr. Stephen Loyd, Medical Director for the Division of Substance Abuse Service for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. “Doctors are less likely to question a young, put-together woman who’s asking for a prescription.”
Dr. Loyd said doctors aren’t as vigilant with people who don’t “fit the part”.
He also says that demographic is less likely to seek help.
“If you’re a middle class young woman between 21 to 24 years old and you have the disease of addiction how easy is it for you to step out and say ‘I need help?’” Dr. Loyd told News 2. “It’s a whole lot easier for someone on the streets to say it than the person who’s living on the right side of town.”
Kiersten Odom knows that struggle. She was a young X-ray technician when she became addicted to prescription opiates.
“I started off as a well-rounded, put-together young woman,” she told News 2. “I didn’t wake up one day and decide I wanted to be a drug addict.”
As her addiction grew, Odom was arrested for doctor shopping and charged with fraud.
When she couldn’t get prescription pills anymore, she turned to heroin.
“It got to a point when the doctors were catching on to doctor shopping that I started pursuing in other avenues,” Odom said. “I knew the IV was going to be the instant gratification I was looking for.”
Dr. Loyd told News 2 that’s how many young women turn to heroin.
“It’s about economics,” he said. “When you get on the street, pills are a heck of a lot more expensive than heroin. It’s a $350 a day habit for pills on the street or you can get high for $50 with heroin.”
Odom eventually lost her X-ray technician license, her job, home and car. She is now sober and working at Addiction Campuses to help others in a situation she is all too familiar with.
“Addiction didn’t discriminate based off my income, my upbringing, my family or where I was living,” she said. “It definitely would affect anybody.”
In a twist, Dr. Loyd was also addicted to pain pills 13 years ago. He had trouble seeking treatment because everything looked “perfect.”
“We have got to tear down the stigma attached to this disease,” he said. “You’re taking your kids to soccer games, you’re showing up at school functions, you’re going places with your significant other and putting on the face but at the same
time but you’re a slave to a prescription bottle when you get home…or worse.”
Anyone who needs help can call 1-800-889-9789.