Pubdate: Fri, 26 Feb 2016
Source: Imperial Valley Press (CA)
Column: The Mex Factor
Copyright: 2016 Imperial Valley Press
Author: Arturo Bojorquez, is Adelante Valle Editor.


Last month, an official with the Drug Enforcement Agency made a 
presentation before the Senatorial Committee on the Judiciary in 
Washington, D.C. During the report, the country's newest public enemy 
was unveiled.

The south-of-the-border rival has no link to terrorist organizations, 
viruses, or Donald Trump-so-hated Mexicans.

Based on figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 
the DEA's document underlines that drug overdose by heroin usage is 
now the leading cause of injury-related deaths in the United States, 
surpassing deaths from car accidents and firearms.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 
(SAMHSA) reported that in 2014 approximately 435,000 Americans 
reported heroin consumption for the last month before being surveyed. 
Just in 2007 about 373,000 people acknowledged the lifetime use of 
this same drug and that number almost tripled to 914,000 in 2014.

To put things worse, heroin consumption can be either smoked or 
snorted, leaving behind the injection use and body marks associated 
with the needle. Besides, the report said heroin users now are 
younger and more ethnically and geographically diverse than ever.

At the same time, overdose deaths involving heroin have almost 
tripled since 2010, very likely due to the drug's increased power.

Black tar heroin, commonly found in western United States, comes from 
the Sinaloa cartel and imported in privately-owned vehicles through 
the El Centro and San Diego corridors, the DEA official said.

The agency said heroin seizures increased from 1,016 kilograms in 
2010 to 2,199 kilograms in 2014, and the average seizure jumped from 
2.0 to 3.5 kilograms during the same period. Statistics from the El 
Centro Sector of the Border Patrol reveal a similar path. While in 
2012 the agency confiscated 269 pounds of the drug, the amount 
multiplied by 11 in 2014 to 3,073.215 pounds. Last year, the heroin 
pulled from the streets by the same agency was 2,016.33 pounds.

The San Diego Field Office for the Customs and Border Protection 
Agency reported 1,617 pounds of heroin seized at California's Ports 
of Entry for fiscal year 2015.

Before blaming Mexican drug traffickers, we must be aware that the 
origin to this situation is at home. Not only because we should do 
more to prevent our children from falling into drug's hell, but due 
to the fact that the open door to heroin lies at our houses.

The DEA's document said law enforcement agencies and healthcare 
providers are reporting all over the country an increase in heroin 
use by those who began with prescription drugs, which are either 
found at the family medicine cabinet or are accessible through a friend.

The cost of illicit prescription drugs vary, but are somehow 
affordable at the street level.

In 2014, over 4.3 million Americans age 12 or older reported using 
prescription pain relievers non-medically, the DEA said. That same 
year, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health said 6.5 million 
people over 12 years of age used psychotherapeutic drugs like pain 
relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives. The number of 
heroin users is a quarter of illicit drug users and second only to marijuana.

SAMHSA reported that 80 percent of new heroin users began their drug 
journey by previously consuming prescription pain relievers non-medically.

According to several reports, today's heroin is more pure, less 
expensive and easier to obtain than Controlled Opioid Prescription 
Drugs, or CPDs, and this is exactly what is leading prescription drug 
users to jump into heroin.

Behavioral Health Manager of Adult Outpatient Services in Imperial 
County John Grass said heroin use among teenagers or younger students 
is very rare in Imperial Valley.

"This is more likely to occur beginning in your 19-25 year old 
population increasing in prevalence from there," he said in an email.

However, the California Healthy Kids Survey from Imperial County 
Office of Education for school year 2014-2015 said after alcohol and 
marijuana; medicine, pills, painkillers, tranquilizers, sedatives, 
and even cold/cough medicine follow in lifetime use among our school 
population, with half of respondents saying they have used these 
substances to get high.

The risk of consuming illegal drugs or medicines is higher in the 
group of between 11 and 16 years of age, according to the survey. The 
same document said 39 percent of prescription medication consumers 
used these drugs in the past 30 days before answering to the questionnaire.

Fortunately, the DEA launched in 2010 the "Take Back" initiative that 
has removed so far 5.6 million pounds of medications from 
circulation. And the agency is about to begin with a pilot program 
called 360 Strategy with law enforcement, diversion control and 
community relations elements in Arkansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

But ahead of the feds from coming home we must be more proactive by 
getting rid of our old medicine from the cabinet, for the sake of our kids.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom