Tag Archives: pills-to-heroin

Taking action on International Overdose Awareness Day

Today is International Overdose Awareness Day. Drug overdose death rates worldwide are skyrocketing: of the estimated 78,000 deaths in 2010 because of illegal drug use, more than half were due to painkillers, according to a recent study published in the medical journal The Lancet. And in the U.S., drug overdose is now the number one cause of accidental death of Americans between the ages of 35 and 54, killing over 38,000 people in 2010; many of these deaths were caused by prescription opiates.

The painkiller addiction epidemic has also led to a rise in heroin abuse. A new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also found that found that four out of five recent heroin initiates — about 79% — previously used prescription pain relievers non-medically. According to SAMHSA, the number of people reporting that they have used heroin in the past 12 months rose from 373,000 people in 2007 to 620,000 people in 2011. Similarly, the number of people dependent on heroin in the past 12 months climbed from 179,000 people in 2007 to 369,000 people in 2011.

As this editorial notes, despite the widespread nature of painkiller and heroin abuse, those who are addicted continue to be stigmatized.

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Many heroin addicts were former pill abusers: report

heroinspoonA new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has found that four out of five recent heroin initiates — about 79% — previously used prescription pain relievers non-medically. In addition, people aged 12 to 49 who had used prescription pain relievers nonmedically were 19 times more likely to have initiated heroin use within the past 12 months than others in that age group, the report found.

The report came as part of SAMHSA’s larger efforts to identify some of the factors behind the rise in the rates of heroin use, dependence and initiation that have occurred in the past few years across the nation.

According to SAMHSA, the number of people reporting that they have used heroin in the past 12 months rose from 373,000 people in 2007 to 620,000 people in 2011. Similarly, the number of people dependent on heroin in the past 12 months climbed from 179,000 people in 2007 to 369,000 people in 2011.

The number of people starting to use heroin the first time in the past 12 months also increased from 106,000 people to 178,000 people during the same period, SAMHSA said.

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Ky. cops mull Narcan to curb heroin ODs

overdoseLike many other areas of the nation affected by painkiller abuse, Lexington, Kentucky has been gripped by a wave of heroin-related deaths in recent months. According to this article, the trend has prompted law enforcement officials to consider carrying naloxone, a medication that reverses opiate overdoses. The Lexington Police Department is reviewing a training regimen and protocol that would enable it to place the kits in patrol cars, and is researching whether or not it would be legal for police to administer the drug to a third party, the article says.

Naloxone, otherwise known as Narcan, literally reverses the dangerous effects of taking too much OxyContin or heroin by counteracting the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system.

Many states have passed so-called “Good Samaritan” laws that offer protection to anyone seeking medical help in the event of a drug or alcohol overdose. Some of these laws extend both to people seeking assistance for themselves and for others.

The widespread painkiller addiction epidemic has fueled the rise of heroin use nationwide, particularly among suburban youth. Between 2007 and 2011, the number of users went from 373,000 to 620,000, according to federal data, and heroin-dependent young adults more than doubled to 109,000 between 2009 and 2011.

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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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W. Va. heroin deaths tripled in 2012

overdoseHeroin overdose deaths in West Virginia tripled in 2012 compared to just five years ago, and the state saw a 53% increase in heroin overdose-related deaths last year compared to 2011.

According to this article, which cites statistics released by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Health Statistics Center, between 2007 and 2012, the state’s health statistics center in Charleston reported that a total of 240 deaths were caused by heroin overdoses through the state, increasing from a total of 22 in 2007 to 66 in 2012.

Berkeley County has seen a total of 48 deaths, Jefferson County saw a total of 14 deaths and Morgan County was listed as having seven heroin overdose deaths in that same time period, the article says.

In Berkeley County, the statistics center attributed just one death to a fatal heroin overdose in 2007, but by last year, the number had increased to 13, the article says. Jefferson County saw its highest number of heroin overdose deaths in 2008 and 2010, when four deaths were directly attributed to heroin, but the number dropped to just one in 2012, while Morgan County saw just one heroin overdose death recorded in 2011, which increased to three last year, according to the article.

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Cheap, high-grade heroin floods New England

needle ODRecent restrictions on doctors in prescribing painkillers has led to a rise in the amount of low-cost heroin in New England states that is increasingly purer and thus more potent and dangerous. According to this article in the New York Times, though heroin was once seen as an urban drug, it has been making an alarming comeback in the smaller cities and towns of New England.

Heroin killed 21 people in Maine last year, three times as many as in 2011, while New Hampshire recorded 40 deaths from heroin overdoses last year, up from just 7 a decade ago, the article says. In Vermont, officials reported that 914 people were treated for heroin abuse last year, up from 654 the year before, an increase of almost 40%, according to the article.

A $6 bag of heroin in New York City nets $10 in southern New England and up to $30 or $40 in northern New England, the article adds, citing law enforcement officials.

According to the article:

Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs in the world. About a quarter of everyone who tries it becomes dependent on it. Users can quickly develop a tolerance, prompting them to seek more and more until the pursuit takes over their lives and, often, leads to ruin.

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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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