Heroin Makes a Comeback

by Diane Dimond on February 10, 2014

U.S. Heroin Use at Crisis Levels

Heroin is back – with a vengeance.

It never really disappeared from the drug-culture landscape, of course, but its popularity center has definitely widened these days. It’s no longer the drug of choice for only the down-and-out habitual street druggie. Today, heroin has become a favorite of many middle and upper-class folks who have lost their way in the search to find pain relief.

This is not a column about the tragic recent passing of acclaimed actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman, 46, who was found dead in his New York apartment, reportedly, surrounded by as many as 70 glassine bags of heroin. Nor last year’s passing of the popular star of the TV show “Glee”, Corey Montieth, 31, who succumbed to a heroin overdose in a Vancouver hotel room.

Those celebrity stories make for a lot of headlines but the much bigger story is about the rest of us. There are hundreds of thousands of Americans who currently snort or inject into their veins one of the most unpredictable and deadly drugs known to man. That should be of concern to all of us.

OxyContin – 3x’s More Expensive Than Heroin

So many Americans got hooked on so many different kinds of prescription painkilling drugs over the last decade – opiates like OxyContin or Vicodin – that new federal laws tightening access to them were passed, prices soared and it became cheaper for addicts to buy a ten dollar bag of heroin.

Most frightening? According to drug abuse experts an astonishing number of young people – those who romanticized the high they experienced after raiding their parent’s medicine cabinet – have also turned to heroin.

The latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health reports that heroin use in the U.S. has nearly doubled in the last ten years. Some 156,000 Americans aged 12 or older admitted they first tried heroin in 2012. (That is not a misprint. Yes, 12-year-old children are using heroin.) This is a fraction of the total number of illicit drug abusers in this country but here’s the saddest part: Today’s heroin is killing people at an alarming rate.

In Naperville, Illinois – an affluent suburb near Chicago’s heroin riddled West Side – nearly 20 high school students have died of heroin overdoses in the last six years. CNN showcased a young woman from Naperville named Gabby Muro. Hooked on heroin at 15, Gabby was arrested for possession and spent two years in prison. She believes her time behind bars saved her life. Gabby’s take on what lures kids from her upper-middle class neighborhood to use heroin?

Gabby Muro Mug Shot

“Their parents just hand them all this money,” she said. “They don’t even ask, like, ‘What are you going to do? Where are you going?’ They do whatever they want.”

Kids in-the-know in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania could visit a local McDonald’s to get heroin. Police say employee Shania Dennis, 26, instructed buyers to go to the drive-up window and say, “I’d like to order a toy.” That code got them a Happy Meal box with heroin packets inside. Earlier this year, another McDonald’s employee in Murrysville, Pa. was also arrested for selling heroin.

A federal agent who runs major heroin trafficking investigations recently told ABC News, “Heroin is exploding nationwide. It’s making a huge comeback. People are dropping like flies.” Part of the reason is that addicts have no way of knowing the potency of the heroin they buy – or what might have been added to it.

Law enforcement reports that heroin laced with fentanyl – a powerful painkiller given to terminal cancer patients – has been cropping up at overdose death scenes in the Northeast at a frightening rate. Since purveyors of this poison often exchange trade secrets officials worry this tainted type of heroin could now appear nationwide.

Glassine Bags Like These Found at Hoffman’s

Packets stamped with the words “Thera-flu” or “Bud Ice” are thought to have caused the recent deaths of more than 20 people in western Pennsylvania, 22 heroin related deaths in Rhode Island and as many as 37 in Maryland since September. State Police in Massachusetts recently confiscated more than 1,200 packets of heroin with the words “ObamaCare” and “Kurt Cobain” stamped on the bags.

The governor of Vermont devoted his entire State of the State speech last month to what he called the “full blown” heroin and opiate crisis there. Governor Peter Shumlin literally begged the legislature for more money for treatment programs noting that it costs Vermont $1,120 a week to keep an addict in prison while a week’s worth of treatment at a state-run center costs $123. Nearly 80% of Vermont’s prisoners are serving time on drug charges.

“The time has come for us to stop quietly averting our eyes from the growing heroin addiction in our front yards,” Shumlin said, “while we fear and fight treatment facilities in our backyards.”

A Heroin High is Now Cheaper

For those readers who think this topic doesn’t touch their life – I implore you to think again.

A heroin high now costs less than a decent bottle of wine, a movie ticket or a meal for two at a fast food joint. Functioning heroin addicts are all around us yet, realize, they are one tainted glassine bag away from a melt-down – or death. They drive next to us on the highways, work in our hospitals or teach in our schools. Those who have been arrested and incarcerated went through the tax-payer funded justice system and are sitting in prisons paid for with your tax dollars.

The heroin epidemic affects you. It affects all of us. And it’s only getting worse.

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Diane Dimond February 10, 2014 at 9:51 am

Noozhawk Reader Libertarian writes:

“And your solution is what exactly? More enforcement? Obviously it has worked so well in the past that we should keep doing it! Or not.”

Reply

Diane Dimond February 10, 2014 at 9:52 am

Dear Libertarian,

I don’t pretend to have the solution, Libertarian. But if the Governor of Vermont is correct — and it costs 10X’s less to TREAT a heroin addict as opposed to incarcerating them — then maybe THAT is a place to start to begin to solve the problem. ~ DD

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Diane Dimond February 10, 2014 at 10:29 am

Twitter pal Organic_Reality writes:

“@DiDimond It boggles my mind how a heroin addict can be a functioning part of our society. What am I missing?”

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Diane Dimond February 10, 2014 at 10:39 am

Please read up on it O_G. – Because its now such a cheap high, kids in junior high and high school, adults seeking pain relief, older people who were once clean and have now returned to street drugs are all using heroin.
Honestly, it is a national crisis. IMHO locking up the addicts won’t take away their weakness for the high. ~DD

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Diane Dimond February 10, 2014 at 10:35 am

Facebook Friend Jill Kristen writes:

“High school kids are loving it. It’s cheap, they can get it and hide it easily, and snort it. It’s horrible.”

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Diane Dimond February 10, 2014 at 10:36 am

Facebook Friend Susan Alloggio writes:

” I Remember being forced to watch Geraldo Rivera documentaries (7th grade PE) Let me tell you! It probably saved a lot of kids. SHOCKING! It sure scared me and thank God I was never dumb enough to try it. Education is key!! Thanks for the read.”

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Diane Dimond February 10, 2014 at 10:40 am

Dave Imb responds:

Susan, for every one kid that is scared by those programs, 5 others dismiss them completely for what they are: propaganda. For example, any program that calls marijuana a “gateway drug” does not deserve to be taken seriously, for 1) tobacco is more of a “gateway drug” than any other and 2) the whole idea of a “gateway drug” is a load of bull. Why isn’t caffeine considered a gateway drug, or alcohol?

I, for one, remember laughing out loud at the DARE program when we had it in school – and I was still in elementary school. “

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Diane Dimond February 10, 2014 at 10:36 am

Facebook Friend Dave Imb writes:

“We need common sense, data and proven public policy to make a comeback so that more lives aren’t needlessly ruined. Legalize all drugs and be done with it.”

Reply

Diane Dimond February 10, 2014 at 10:37 am

Facebook Friend Howard Schug writes:

“We need Jesus to make a comeback in the lives of sinners.”

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Diane Dimond February 10, 2014 at 11:16 am

Rare.US Reader DrKeteDC writes:

“I don’t think it’s the money kids have or have not. It’s the attitudes. Creating categories of legal or illegal drugs blurs the issue of addiction. Time to examine the intent and the effects of drug laws. Do you want to live your life with chemical promises?”

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Diane Dimond February 10, 2014 at 11:26 am

Facebook Friend Stacy Brown writes:

“12 year olds doing heroin and it’s cheaper than a pizza?? Why isn’t this as important to the nation’s leaders as say, battleships in the Gulf? This is truly a crisis that needs every resource possible, particularly when you see how many young people are affected. Remember, the young are our future, right?”

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Diane Dimond February 10, 2014 at 11:27 am

Facebook Friend Jill Kristen writes;

“Stacy Brown…there is an expressway that leads from the inner city (the land of the drug dealers) to the affluent suburbs. it has been nicknamed “The Heroin Highway.” High school kids are preyed upon by drug pushers. It’s cheap to get them started, and easy to get them hooked…thus a captive audience of “repeat business” for the dealers. It’s a disaster.”

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Diane Dimond February 10, 2014 at 11:28 am

Facebook Friend Darryl DuPont writes:

” I saw a post that made me stop and think. Bill Ritter posted something that said we need to stop saying the Phillip Seymour Hoffman died of an “overdose” of heroin, implying if he had taken the right amount he’d be alive. He “died” of heroin is what we should be saying.
We all tend to sugarcoat drug use and need to be more realistic about how bad addiction is and it kills. Desensitizing it only encourages drug use.”

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Diane Dimond February 10, 2014 at 11:31 am

Darryl,

I absolutely agree with WABC-TV anchorman Bill Ritter. Further, I think there has been a quality about the media coverage of Hoffman’s death (and Monteith and Ledger before him) that tended to glorify the man. Much more air- time was spent extolling his virtues as an actor than really exploring the national crisis of the Heroin stranglehold on all the rest of the population. … In other words, I think the media, by focusing only on this highly talented actor – missed the much bigger story. ~ DD

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Diane Dimond February 10, 2014 at 12:50 pm

Facebook Friend Alexandrea Merrell writes:

“I agree Diane, I also think that the way the story is covered actually glorifies the drug.

You have famous actor, who the media reports was addicted for many years (so it didn’t hurt his career), a drug dealer who is a musician and frequent shoulder rubber of the famous in music and acting circles (so its a “cool” thing to do if you want to be in the in circle).

Adding that it costs only a few bucks to get and having former and current addicts tell how euphoric the high is……not responsible at all.”

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Diane Dimond February 10, 2014 at 11:35 am

Twitter pal Spainkasey writes:

” @DiDimond you don’t want to get me started on that. Please check out The Addicts Mom. We are an advocacy and support group.//yes, you can’t ignore it. It’s affects us all!”

Reply

Diane Dimond February 10, 2014 at 11:36 am

Twitter Pal rajalowe writes:
” @DiDimond Heroin comeback means people need to get rolling to conquer it. Nobody should sit around and think the problem will just go away.”

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Diane Dimond February 10, 2014 at 11:37 am

Twitter Pal RVT writes:

“@DiDimond I don’t get it…. that is possibly the most disgusting habit ever!”

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Diane Dimond February 10, 2014 at 5:24 pm

Facebook Friend Beth Rooney writes:

“Had to share, went through this with my family and my ex’s family! Heroin and prescription drugs are horrible creations 1 out of every 3 households in America are affected by some sort of addiction in the 21st century, those are pretty bad odds.”

Reply

Diane Dimond February 10, 2014 at 5:26 pm

Twitter pal junehanniman writes:

“@DiDimond I always thought Heroin was a drug for the rich only, until I read your article. Heroin is there for anyone, at anytime.”

Reply

Diane Dimond February 11, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Twitter pal nancyanne331 writes:

“@DiDimond I can see why there is a H problem! It’s nearly impossible to get RX pain meds. I’ve never used them before! Very tough! Big prob! // a couple of months ago, I crushed my Tibula. Excruciating pain! You have no idea the Hell trying to get RX Pain meds at pharmacy!”

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Diane Dimond February 15, 2014 at 8:28 pm

Reader Kevin McKeown writes:

“Diane:
Yes, spend more money on treatment- it’s the only thing that might work.
But: I firmly believe that heroin traffickers and dealers are really murderers, and attempted murderers. They must be dealt with as such.
If a heroin dealer received a jail term of 20 years w/o good time served, the heroin problem might disappear. Throw these bastards in prison for LONG periods of time. No 2 month sentences.”

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Tracy Jordan February 17, 2014 at 8:04 am

Heroin is the new weapon of mass destruction. The terrorists are winning – killing one person at a time with poppy. Does anyone else think it is a coincidence that heroin use has increased with U.S. peace-keeping efforts in Afghanistan – the biggest producer of heroin in the world? The U.S. would be better off testing heroin for its country of origins and cutting off the supply rather than incarcerating users and street-level dealers who need medical help not prison.

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Diane Dimond February 17, 2014 at 10:49 am

Thanks for writing, Tracy. You may be on to something there. I wonder if it is possible to actually trace the providence of heroin back to the growth country? Interesting. ~ DD

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