Officials in Maryland are dealing with an alarming uptick in heroin overdoses and are concerned that the trend may be an unintended consequence of state efforts to crack down on prescription drug addiction, according to this article. Fatal heroin overdoses across the state rose by 41% this year, while cases involving prescription drugs fell by 15%, the article notes.
Maryland is the latest state to see an increase in heroin abuse in the wake of the painkiller addiction epidemic. Last month, law enforcement officials in Kentucky reported a dramatic rise in the number of arrests and seizures related to heroin. Kentucky State Police submitted 451 suspected heroin samples to its lab in 2010; by 2011, that number had increased to 749, and through September 2012, state police had submitted 1,074 cases to the lab. And in Pennsylvania, it was reported that heroin-related deaths in Allegheny County increased from 62 in 2008 to 95 in 2011.
Painkiller addicts across the nation are turning to the hardcore street drug when pills become too expensive or scarce, according to a letter published in July in the New England Journal of Medicine. Three researchers examined the effect of the abuse-deterrent formulation on the abuse of OxyContin and other opioids, surveying 2,566 people seeking treatment for abuse of or dependence on opioid drugs. Although 24 percent found a way to defeat the tamper-resistant properties of the abuse-deterrent formulation, 66 percent indicated a switch to another opioid, with heroin the most common response.