301 W. Franklin Street
Taylorville, IL 62568
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FROM THE SHERIFF’S DESK, VOL 4, NR 3
By Sheriff Bruce Kettelkamp
HEROIN USE IS INCREASING DRAMATICALLY. IN ADDITION, IT IS HAPPENING THROUGHOUT THE UNITED STATES.
The facts are clear. Reports from local governments are reporting the same developments. For years, they worked to reduce the abuse and over-abuse of certain pain medications. During these years, prescription drug abuse has been responsible for killing more than 16,000 people each year.
Government actions against them have been succeeding. Individuals here in Christian County now find it harder to get needed prescriptions from doctors. The reason is that a DEA investigation in our County resulted in a doctor losing their license because of “giving out prescriptions too freely.”
We have even reached the point that a new procedure “Doctor Shopping”, which is being increasingly used by those seeking prescription drugs. It means that users are obtaining a narcotic prescription from several providers. One study concluded that 20 percent of patients were “doctor shopping.” On average, the shopper group was able to use narcotics 4 times longer than single provider patients were. Therefore, the shoppers had 112 days of use versus 28 days of availability for non-shoppers.
These activities have led to consequences with serious results. For one thing, the pain medications have become less available because of government action. That of course, means that those who still seek these drugs are facing higher prices because of the resultant scarcity, whether or not their needs are real or they are overdosing.
Another factor was a national crackdown on drugs like Vicodin, Oxycotin and Fentanyl – a powerful painkiller for cancer patients. The switch of people who are addicted to these prescription drugs to heroin is even more comment due to increasing costs on them.
Nearly half of young people who inject heroin surveyed in three recent studies reported abusing prescription opioids before starting to use heroin. One reason for this is that the prescription pills and heroin are in the same class of drugs and provide a comparable euphoric high.
In addition, once users have turned to heroin and its more bearable pricing, they are likely to stay with it. In fact, continuing changes in the prescription drug field principally serve to increase the appeal of heroin. For example, one 2012 study found that reformulation of OxyContin to make it harder to abuse, caused heroin use to nearly double.
The drugs’ prices are a major reason for these changes. An 80-milligram OxyContin costs between $60 and $100 per pill on the black market. Other prescription pain pills range from $20 to $60. In comparison, heroin costs $45 to $60 for a multiple dose supply and $3 to $10 a bag.
OxyContin abuse has also been declining because the drug has been reformulated so it is more difficult to crush and snort. The result supplies even more reason to turn to heroin.
According to the studies, heroin use between 2007 and 2012 recorded an increase of 81% in first-time heroin users who had previously abused prescription drugs.
It is estimated that 607,000 persons per year used heroin in the years 2009-2011, compared to 374,000 during 2002-2005. Similarly, the estimated number of new heroin users increased from 109,000 per year during 2002-2005 to 169,000 per year during 2009-2011.
Heroin use is on the rise in the USA with the number of deaths from heroin use also on the rise. It takes little time for a tolerance to the drug to build up so that it takes more heroin to get the euphoria. Heroin is an opioid that is synthesized from morphine. When it is in the body, it enters the brain where it is converted back into morphine, which binds to opioid receptors. Another reason heroin use grows when someone switches from prescription drugs is that when heroin is used to replace prescription drugs, the heroin produces results that makes its high a draw that’s hard to resist. The problem is that heroin is highly addictive. Anyone from any group or age bracket can easily become addicted in a very short span of repeated use.
Of even more concern is dealing with the impact of heroin usage. A recent survey of teens and college age young adult is reveals that this age group “doesn’t believe that occasional use” of heroin is dangerous. This should be a powerful warning to their parents.
The power of heroin to strike throughout the age groups and backgrounds was shown when just a few weeks ago, on February 2, a famous and very popular actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, paid a deadly price and died from the use of heroin and other drugs.
In earlier years, he had said that his long affair with drugs started while he was in college. He used any drugs and alcohol he could “get his hands on.” At 22 years old, he had entered rehab and stayed sober for 23 years. Last May he entered rehab again for a 10-day detox program. He died at just 46 years of age. Many others have followed the same path. Last July, the star of “Glee”, Cory Monteith died from heroin and alcohol.
A typical example reported that a 16-year-old Virginia high-school student who had never injected heroin before died when a friend shot it into her vein.
Maryland officials said that heroin tainted with fentanyl had claimed at least 37 lives since September. Another 22 cases were reported in parts of Pennsylvania.
We are receiving information on these activities in Christian County, and our next report will include that data.
We must not conclude that this data suggests that marijuana is being reduced as a result. Here is something to consider: In 2012 alone, more than 31 million people used marijuana or hashish. Legalizing it and promoting the fact that it is a medicine is increasing usage further.
Some basic reasons heroin is growing so fast are.
1. It’s cheap.
2. It’s everywhere.
3. Pushers are getting creative. In Pittsburgh, police arrested a McDonald’s employee for selling heroin in Happy Meal boxes.
Between 1999 and 2009, 32 states saw an increase in heroin-related patients, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Last month in western Pennsylvania, 22 people died after using heroin that had been mixed with fentanyl, a powerful narcotic. The drug cocktails were sold under innocent names like “Theraflu” and “Bud ice.”
There are some encouraging signs, however.
Many law enforcement personnel are now carrying a new life-saving antidote, Naloxone. Thus far, 17 states and the District of Columbia have amended their laws to increase access to Naloxone, which can help cure heroin overdoses.
It is critical that families learn to recognize signs of these addictions and the steps needed to deal with them. Our next report will provide important help on these issues.
Department Activity for the last 5 months: