Pubdate: Fri, 10 Jul 2015
Source: Jacksonville Journal-Courier (IL)
Copyright: 2015 Freedom Communications


Heroin, once the forbidden fruit of even the most hardcore drug users,
is now a problem for even Smalltown, USA.

Experts believe the meteoric rise of addictive drugs such as Oxycontin
and Vicodin has contributed greatly to the increase. As tighter
controls were put on those drugs, heroin became a cheaper and easier
option and offers a similar euphoric high.

By 2011, 4.2 million Americans age 12 and older - yes, age 12 -
admitted trying the highly addictive drug at least once. A large
percentage acknowledge they are addicted.

While a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report
says white men between 18 and 25 are the most likely to use heroin,
the number of women and children experimenting with the powerful pain
killer are rising sharply.

Not just in poverty-stricken areas. Not just in big cities. Not just
in isolated cases.

West-central Illinois has seen its share of the tragic results heroin
can bring to families and communities. The true extent of the problem
runs even deeper.

One survey shows 24 percent of high school students nationwide have
abused prescription drugs, including heavy-hitters like Oxycontin.
That's a third more than five years ago. Lured by the high, many said
they resorted to heroin because it is easy to obtain and also because
while pills might cost up to $80, a bag of heroin costs about $10 to

The dangers are plentiful. Heroin suppresses the central nervous
system, and overdose victims often stop breathing. Because heroin is
commonly injected, its use dramatically increases the potential for
such diseases as hepatitis C and HIV to be passed from user to user.

Heroin is also commonly "cut" - which means other ingredients are
sometimes added to make the dealer's supply go further and increase
profitability. These ingredients can be anything from baking soda to
rat poison.

According to its Vital Signs report released this week, the CDC said
8,200 people died from heroin overdoses in 2013 alone. That's about
120 people a day. Overdoses nearly doubled between 2011 and 2013 - and
quadrupled between 2002 and 2013, according to the report.

In Illinois, funding for heroin-intervention programs has dropped
drastically, from $24 million in 2012 to $20.9 million last year. At
the same time, use of the drug has become more widespread - with
heroin-related deaths increasing 55 percent in DuPage County, by 80
percent in Will County and almost 200 percent in Kane County,
according to the Coalition for Health Funding.

The Illinois State Crime Commission has recognized heroin use as an
epidemic, as have Illinois health officials.

To attack the situation, it will take a combined effort to effect any

"To reverse this trend, we need an all-of-society response - to
improve opioid-prescribing practices to prevent addiction, expand
access to effective treatment for those who are addicted, increase use
of naloxone to reverse overdoses, and work with law enforcement
partners like DEA to reduce the supply of heroin," warns CDC Director
Tom Frieden.
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