Pubdate: Wed, 14 Mar 2007
Source: Sierra Sun (Truckee, CA)
Copyright: 2007 Sierra Sun
Author: Sierra Countis
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Oxycontin/Oxycodone)


A 23-year-old Truckee man was treated for a heroin overdose last week 
at a time when heroin use in Nevada County is reportedly on the rise.

While methamphetamine is still the drug of choice in Nevada County, 
two other narcotics are emerging on the scene -- heroin and OxyContin 
- -- powerful and addictive substances, said Bob Gillaspie, drug and 
alcohol program manager with the Nevada County Behavioral Health Department.

"[Nevada County] is seeing an increase of heroin use, within just 
this last year," Gillaspie said.

Truckee Fire Protection District was the first to arrive March 7 at 
the Glenshire residence where a Truckee man overdosed on heroin, said 
Truckee Police Detective Robert Womack. The 23-year-old man, whose 
name was not released because he was not cited by police at the 
scene, had either taken too much heroin or had used more potent 
heroin than he was accustomed to, Womack said. Truckee fire emergency 
response personnel gave the man Narcan -- a drug that blocks the 
reaction of heroin in the body -- and transported him to Tahoe Forest 
Hospital, where he was treated by emergency room staff, Womack said.

"Narcan reverses the effects immediately," said Dr. Michael 
MacQuarrie, the hospital's director of emergency services. "You wake 
the person up and they get mad at you because you ruined their high."

Narcan is built into the emergency medical response protocol because 
of its effectiveness, MacQuarrie said. But Tahoe Forest rarely treats 
drug overdose patients. Last week's heroin overdose was the "first 
we've seen in 10 years," he said. Most often, emergency room staff 
deal with the medical effects related to drug use: heart attacks, 
chest pains, seizures, or accidents connected to heavy alcohol 
consumption, MacQuarrie said.

Western Nevada County is seeing an increase in the number of reports 
of patients admitted into the emergency room related to drug 
overdoses, Gillaspie said.

The Truckee man, charged with possession of heroin and suspicion of 
being under the influence of heroin, was not cited at the scene 
because of his medical condition, Womack said. His case was referred 
to the district attorney.

The Path Of Abuse

Gillaspie said there are many theories as to why heroin and OxyContin 
use is becoming more prevalent in Nevada County. Heroin and OxyContin 
are derived through the processing of opium, which comes from poppy 
flowers. An increase in the number of poppy fields in the Middle 
East, including war-torn Afghanistan, has led to more heroin being 
manufactured and shipped to the United States, he said.

The cost of heroin isn't less expensive compared to other illegal 
street drugs. OxyContin, on the other hand, is a legal prescription 
painkiller some people tend to misuse, Gillaspie said.


Drug Abuse Symptoms

The body is simply overwhelmed by the drug when a person overdoses, 
Gillaspie said. Heroin-users build up a tolerance to the drug fairly 
quickly and then have to inject more into their systems to experience 
the same short-term feeling of elation and euphoria -- the high -- 
caused by the drug, he said. It's not easy for a drug-user to conceal 
their addictions -- the person's skin will be sallow, they often 
appear sleepy, breathing is labored, and they often have a dry mouth, 
Gillaspie said.

If a person is very ill, immediate emergency care should be contacted 
because a drug overdose can poison, and likely kill, the user, he 
said. And if it's not an emergency, family and friends should have a 
discussion about the drug-user's habits and coordinate an 
intervention with help from a drug and alcohol counselor.
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