Pubdate: Sun, 11 May 2014
Source: Athens News, The (OH)
Copyright: 2014, Athens News
Author: David Dewitt


This is the third article in a series that's focusing on heroin and 
related drugs' growth, prevention, treatment, distribution, law 
enforcement and policy in Athens County and southeast Ohio.

One of the more unsettling trends to emerge as the use of heroin has 
grown throughout the state, especially in rural Ohio, is that 
problems now involve a much younger group of individuals than was the 
case 10 years ago.

Health Recovery Services Executive Director Dr. Joe Gay called the 
shift a "shocking pattern" in a 2012 report.

"In the year 2000 the largest group of opioid admissions occurred in 
those over the age of 40," he wrote. "By 2009, persons age 21 to 30 
accounted for the largest number of admissions, and the proportion of 
admissions under the age of 21 also increased."

Statistics from a 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Health and 
Human Services shows that 52 percent of publicly funded treatment 
admissions for heroin in Ohio were people between the ages of 20 and 
29. If you add in 30- to 34-year-olds, that percentage goes up to 
70.8 percent. No other age category hits double-digits.

The story is similar for treatment to addiction to other opiates, 
with the age range between 20 and 39 accounting for 78.3 percent of 
admissions. The statistics show 9,263 admissions for treatment of 
heroin in Ohio in 2011, and 7,562 admissions for other opiates.

Of those admitted for heroin, 51.5 percent were male and 48.5 percent 
were female. For other opiates, 46.1 percent were male, while 53.9 
percent were female.

Moreover, 91.6 percent of those receiving treatment for heroin and 
94.9 percent for other opiates were white. Black people accounted for 
5.7 percent of those in treatment for heroin and 3.8 percent for 
other opiates. People of Hispanic origin made up 2.2 percent for 
heroin and 0.9 percent for other opiates.

A 2011 report from Ohio's Office of Criminal Justice Services on 
arrests related to heroin reflects the demographics of those 
receiving treatment.

The four largest age blocks for those arrested for heroin, in order, 
are 18 to 24, 25 to 29, 30 to 34, and 35 to 39. The average age of 
all people arrested for heroin comes out to 29.2. In 2010, around 67 
percent of all arrestees were under the age of 30.

Broken down by crime type, the average age for possession was 29.29 
while the average age for trafficking was slightly lower at 28.5.

Looking at the arrest age data by race, 82 percent were white and 18 
percent were black. Nearly three-quarters of arrestees for heroin 
possession and 80 percent of arrestees for trafficking were males.

Meanwhile, 91 percent of females arrested on heroin charges were 
arrested for possession with the remaining 9 percent for trafficking. 
For males, 86 percent of arrests were for possession while 14 percent 
were for trafficking.

Various studies have shown a strong link between the use of heroin 
and previous use of prescription opioids. A 2009 University of 
California study showed that 90 percent of heroin users had histories 
of prior prescription opioid abuse.

DR. GAY HAS SAID THAT the tolerance built in recreational users by 
prescription opioids leads to many seeking a cheaper alternative in heroin.

In a study of his own, Gay said that of 40 adolescents with a clear 
history of prescription opioid abuse, 15, or 38 percent, progressed 
to heroin use. In the University of California study, of 89 youth who 
has used prescription opioids, 48, or 54 percent, progressed to heroin use.

"It is quite alarming that somewhere between one-third to just over 
one-half of youth who abuse prescription opioids may progress to 
heroin use," he said, making sure to note that the youths studied 
were in residential treatment and had relatively severe substance-use problems.

Gay also emphasized that even though heroin usage has increased 
dramatically over the past decade, it remains a deviant behavior and 
only a very small overall percentage of people end up using.

"Very few people use heroin," he said. "If you look at the national 
statistics, it's down in the tenths of one percent. But the 
implications of the use of heroin is enormous."

For instance, he said, looking at treatment statistics, for every 
1,000 people who have had a drink of alcohol in the past year, three 
will end up in treatment. For every 1,000 people who use heroin, 621 
will end up in treatment.

Gay said that national survey results show larger numbers, with 1.1 
percent of alcohol users in the previous year saying they ended up in 
treatment, while 75.3 percent of heroin users did.

Meanwhile, with more than 38,000 drug overdose deaths per year in the 
United States, national reports show 75 percent are opioid-related. 
And it's estimated that for every fatal overdose, there are an 
estimated 25 to 50 near misses. This means that as many as 22 percent 
of users will suffer a "near miss," the kind where you fall asleep 
and very nearly never wake up.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom