Tag Archives: heroin

Heroin is ‘archenemy No. 1’ in Chicago suburbs: coroner

heroinSuburban teens have been scoring heroin on Chicago’s West Side since the 1990s, but heroin-related deaths have dramatically increased in recent years, according to this article in the Chicago Tribune, which cites statistics provided by county coroners. According to the article, experts attribute the spike to a combination of factors, including its cheap price, its availability, and the fact that syringes are no longer needed to inject the drug due to its purity, eliminating fear of needles as a deterrent.

Some of the article’s disturbing statistics:

In 2012, Lake County’s death toll reached a five-year high of 33, while heroin killed 27 people in Kane County, up from two in 2006, records show.

DuPage County’s numbers nearly doubled from 23 in 2007, the furthest its records go back, to 43 in 2012.

Heroin killed 53 Will County residents last year, more than traffic accidents and homicides combined, leading one coroner to call the drug “archenemy No. 1.”

McHenry County had 16 heroin deaths in 2012, the highest total since 2008. Cook County could not provide statistics that isolate heroin from other opiates, but the medical examiner said it remains a steady problem with an estimated one to two heroin deaths a day.

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Most heroin addicts initially started on pills: report

bunchofpillsHeroin use and overdose deaths have skyrocketed in recent years, and emerging information suggests this is the result of prescription painkiller addicts transitioning to the hardcore street drug. According to statistics recently released by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, most people reporting heroin use initially started on pills.

According to the NCBI:

Between 2002-2004 and 2008-2010, past year heroin use increased among people reporting past year nonmedical use (PYNMU) of opioid pain relievers, but not among those reporting no PYNMU. Frequent nonmedical users – people reporting 100-365 days of PYNMU – had the highest rate of past year heroin use and were at increased risk for ever injecting heroin and past year heroin abuse or dependence as compared to infrequent nonmedical users (1-29 days of PYNMU).

In 2008-2010, 82.6% of frequent nonmedical users who used heroin in the past year reported nonmedical use of opioid pain relievers prior to heroin initiation compared to 64.1% in 2002-2004.

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Prosecutors turn eye on dealers for pill OD deaths

gavelAs more painkiller addicts are turning to heroin due to the crackdown on prescription drugs, a growing number of law enforcement agencies are turning to rarely used drug laws to prosecute drug dealers for their role in causing overdose deaths, according to this article in the Associated Press.

Prosecutors in New Jersey, for example, are using the state’s “strict liability for drug death” statute, a first-degree crime that holds dealers and producers responsible for a user’s death and has a 20-year maximum sentence, the article says. They are also changing the way they investigate overdoses, which were once looked upon as accidents, immediately sending detectives to the scene of an overdose, and instructing paramedics to treat overdoses like crimes. In addition, coroners are being asked to order autopsies and preserve forensic evidence because proving that a death was caused solely by heroin can be difficult when other substances are present in a person’s system, the article says.

The number of people nationwide who have used heroin in the past year rose by 66% between 2007 and 2011, while the number of people who died of overdoses and had heroin present in their system jumped 55% from 2000 to 2010, the article notes, citing federal data.

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Opioid abuse epidemic leaving many untreated

RXAs of 2009, around 2.3 million Americans suffered from addiction to opioids such as heroin or the prescription drug oxycodone, and new research shows that many of these people aren’t getting the treatment they need, according to this article. The massive uptick in opiate addiction has resulted in a major gap between current treatment options and evidence-based practices, the article says, citing an article published in the journal Health Affairs.

Excessive regulation presents the biggest barrier for treatment in the U.S., the article says. In addition, although maintenance treatment with methadone is the dominant form of treatment for opioid dependence throughout most of the developed world, detox is still a popular option, particularly in the U.S. – even though it is ineffective in getting and keeping people off of opioids, the article says.

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N.J. opiate epidemic driven by network of corruption: report

gunAn investigation into prescription pill and heroin abuse in New Jersey has revealed the operation of illicit medical practices run by unscrupulous entrepreneurs and corrupt physicians, some with ties to organized crime.

The report by the state’s Commission of Investigation found that the painkiller and heroin abuse epidemic has taken an unprecedented hold in the suburbs that is far more serious than the heroin crisis of the 1960s and ’70s. According to the commission, a network of corrupt doctors — some feeding Russian organized crime by bilking Medicaid and Medicare — has created a proliferation of painkillers and heroin, with open-air drug markets in cities and at malls in affluent communities. For example, in the span of 19 months in 2010 and 2011, one local pharmacy had 3,100 prescriptions for pills, nearly all with various quantities of oxycodone, the report found.

In 2011, there were 1,008 drug deaths in New Jersey — a 20% increase over 2010, and nearly half were people 25 or younger, according to this article. Of those, 337 involved oxycodone, and 368 involved heroin mixed with other illicit drugs, the article says.

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Heroin ODs in Maryland up by 54%: officials

heroinFatal overdoses from heroin rose by 54% in Maryland from 2011 to 2012, due in part to the state’s painkiller addiction epidemic, according to a report released by the state health department on Wednesday. This increase led to a 15% rise in the total number of fatal drug- and alcohol-related overdoses in the state, from 663 in 2011 to 761 in 2012.

According to the report, 2012 marked a reversal in recent alcohol and drug overdose trends: heroin-related deaths, which declined 36% between 2007 and 2011, increased among all demographic groups and in all regions in the state from 2011 to 2012.

In contrast, deaths related to prescription opioids like oxycodone and methadone, which increased 18% between 2007 and 2011, decreased 12% between 2011 and 2012, according to the report.

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‘Overdose deaths are preventable:’ Narcan film


Although opiate overdoses are skyrocketing in the U.S., many people still don’t know about naloxone, which literally reverses the dangerous effects of taking too much OxyContin or heroin by counteracting the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system.

This powerful new short film, “Reach for Me: Fighting to End the American Drug Overdose Epidemic,” is produced by Sawbuck Productions in Association with with CinemaNOPE Pictures and examines the need for expanded access to naloxone. It makes a great argument for how Narcan can help save lives, and explains why more overdose awareness prevention is needed.

I am always amazed at how many people are unaware of Narcan and how it’s used, but I myself didn’t know about naloxone until well after my brother’s heroin overdose death in 2009. It took less than 10 minutes for me to get trained in Narcan use by the wonderful folks at the DOPE Project, a nonprofit whose mission is to reduce fatal overdose deaths by providing overdose prevention education and naloxone to drug users and their loved ones — and if you live in the Bay Area, I highly suggest contacting them to get trained.

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Deaths among young heroin users on the rise in Wash.

heroinHeroin use and related deaths have increased significantly across Washington state over the past decade — and the trend is especially prevalent among people under age 30, who are finding it cheaper and easier to get heroin than prescription opiates these days, according to this article.

The article cites a new study by the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, which found that drug treatment admissions for heroin increased statewide from 2,647 in 2002 to 7,500 in 2012. The majority of 18- to-29-year-olds seeking drug treatment for the first time in 2012 were being treated for heroin use, the study also found.

In addition, the number of accidental deaths statewide involving heroin and prescribed opiates doubled from an average of 310 a year between 2000 and 2002 and 607 a year from 2009 to 2011, according to the study.

The article notes that the data from Washington mirrors a national trend, even though the most up-to-date national research is a few years behind Washington:

A National Institutes of Health study cites numbers from 2009 that show a national rise in opiate addiction and overdoses. The authors of that study, which was published in February 2013 in the Public Library of Science journal, predicted heroin use would likely increase as a result.

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Heroin ODs skyrocket in Twin Cities area

overdoseDue to the painkiller addiction epidemic, the Twin Cities metro area in Minnesota is experiencing a dramatic increase in heroin overdose deaths and emergency room admissions for overdoses. According to this article, there were 37 heroin-related deaths in Hennepin County last year – a more than 900% increase over the four deaths reported in 2008.

2012 is the second year in a row for a dramatic increase in heroin overdose deaths in the Twin Cities; in 2011, the number of overdose deaths more than doubled from the previous year, the article says.

Minneapolis has the highest purity level of Mexican heroin of any U.S. city, and sells the drug for the lowest prices, the article adds, citing a 2009 report by the Department of Human Services.

As we are seeing elsewhere in the nation, the painkiller addiction trend has resulted in a shocking uptick in heroin deaths.

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Ore. sees spike in heroin overdose deaths

heroinspoonDriven by the prescription drug addiction epidemic, heroin deaths in Oregon reached a record high in 2012, and the victims were predominantly people in their twenties — much younger than overdose deaths in past years, according to this article.

Heroin killed 147 people, a new high, and accounted for 65% of the illegal drug deaths, the article says, citing state medical examiner data.

There was some good news: overall, numbers of people who died from illegal drugs last year dropped 7% compared to 2011, the article notes.

Says one official quoted in the article:

We are seeing a trend — and the police would agree — of people who were addicted to prescription opioids turning to heroin because they can’t get their prescriptions filled or can’t afford to pay the street price…they can get the heroin cheaper, but they don’t know how to take it or its potency.

The latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health has found that Oregon leads the nation in abuse of prescription drugs. According to the survey, 6.37% of Oregonians 12 years and older used painkillers for a non-medical purpose in the past year. The lowest rate was found in Iowa, where 3.6% of residents were reported to have abused painkillers.

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