Heroin2Heroin in Mesa

Just last week, Mesa police arrested multiple people in separate incidents over the weekend suspected of using heroin and intending to sell the narcotic. While searching a man and woman’s vehicle, police found: a syringe, a small piece of plastic containing a gray chalky substance later identified as heroin, two glass pipes with burn residue consistent with methamphetamine use, a prescription bottle with various pills, several straws and spoons, and a liquid prescription bottle labeled methadone that was not prescribed to either the man or woman.

Similarly, a 22-year-old man was pulled over during a routine traffic stop and officers discovered heroin in his vehicle as well. The following day, a 19-year-old man was found asleep in his vehicle with the keys still in the ignition. When police questioned him, he admitted to heroin use and had a black tongue, was “sweating profusely” and “seemed aloof” during the police interview (azcentral.com).

Heroin use is on the rise in the country. Some are very aware of its uses and danger, but many are still ignorant to what heroin really is. In a nutshell, heroin is a highly addictive drug that is processed from morphine, which is a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seedpod of the Asian opium poppy plant. Heroin can be injected, snorted/sniffed, or smoked. In heroin’s purest form it is a fine, white powder but it can also be rose gray, brown or black. Toxic ingredients are usually mixed with heroin so the true purity of the drug and its strength is usually hard to really know.

Interestingly, research shows that there is no general description that fits a heroin user. They are young and old; although many of heroin’s newest addicts are in their teens or early 20s and come from middle- or upper-middle-class suburban families.

Tolerance to heroin develops with regular use, so after a short time more heroin is needed to produce the same level of intensity, which generally leads to addiction. Withdrawal symptoms, including: restlessness, diarrhea, cold flashes with goose bumps, insomnia, and muscle and bone pain, can begin just a few hours after the last use.

Approximately 13.5 million people in the world take opioids (opium-like substances), including 9.2 million who use heroin. Although the use of heroin in Mesa is not too extreme, recent arrests and activity indicate that it is a problem and that awareness and support are needed.

Source: azcentral.com


RiseInHeroinOverdoseRise in Heroin overdoses in the US

Recently, much attention has been focused on the rise in heroin related deaths in the United States. A US Federal Health report published this past fall indicates that heroin overdoses doubled from 2010 to 2012. This reports contained data collected from 28 states, accounting for 56% of the US population. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the large increase in heroin-related deaths is directly tied to the epidemic of narcotic painkiller abuse.

Dr. Len Paulozzi, the study’s co-author, said that, “There is a growing population of people who are using narcotics, whether the prescription variety or heroin.” He further indicates that the overprescribing for the past 20 years of painkillers such as Oxycotin and Vcodin is responsible for the increase in heroin use and overdoses.

Steven Reinberg wrote in cbsnews.com Healthy Day that, “Previous research showed that from 2009 to 2012, there was a 74 percent increase in the number of people aged 12 and older.”

This and other frightening facts about the increase of heroin use are showing up in communities and cities all over the US. The CDC report indicates that the worst affected areas are in the Northwest and the Southern parts of the US, but that the entire country is affected.

For instance, just last week, AL.com’s Carol Robinson reported that, “Heroin deaths in Jefferson County jumped about 140 percent in 2014 in what authorities say is a steadily-growing epidemic not likely to end anytime soon. There were 123 confirmed heroin deaths countywide as of Dec. 29, according to the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office. There are at least 18 more suspected heroin deaths, including several this week. Investigators are awaiting toxicology test results to confirm the cause in those cases but all evidence points to heroin.”

Robinson further reported that, “The issue isn’t unique to Jefferson County. Both Shelby and Tuscaloosa counties have seen spikes as well, as have communities nationwide. “

“When Birmingham police go out into these areas where there is high violent crime, they’re falling all over heroin,” U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance said earlier this year… It is also in Gardendale, Fultondale, Vestavia, Mountain Brook, Hoover and at the University of Alabama.” The report further indicates deaths in many other areas of Alabama as well.

Further, AL.com reports that, “Over the past three years, the average age of heroin-related deaths in Jefferson County was 36. Of the victims, 88 percent were white.”

Another interesting point to come out of the research by Paulozzi and his colleagues is that deaths from heroin overdose also vary by age. He indicates that the research shows that deaths from heroin overdose have climbed 120 percent among those 45 to 54 and about 109 percent among those 25 to 34.

Solving this rising epidemic of heroin overdose begins with stopping the addiction to narcotic painkillers through the reducing the prescriptions to such drugs. For those already struggling with addiction, Paulozzi said that increased availability to heroin addiction treatment is key. If those struggling with addiction to heroin don’t receive help, their risks of ending up in a fatal overdose climb significantly.

Most often, a heroin abuser previously abused some type of prescription drugs. At some point prescription drugs become harder to get, are more expensive and provide less of a high. Heroin becomes an easy alternative because it is cheaper, easy to obtain and provides an acceptable or better high. Because the demand for heroin has increased, the price has been driven down by the competition.

Availability, purity and the pursuit of a higher high are also to blame for the increase in the numbers of overdoses.

Heroin is entering into rural and non-urban areas. Many of these areas are where the huge increases of heroin overdoses are occurring. It is vital that there is treatment and recovery help in every area for those addicted to heroin to stop the rise in fatality associated with this deadly drug.

Jefferson County sheriff’s Chief Deputy Randy Christian said, “Heroin is extremely addictive and addicts struggle with rehab efforts, relapsing frequently. Abusers don’t know the chemical make-up or purity of what they’re injecting or snorting and sadly the increasing outcome of their addiction is overdose, and more frequently than ever, death.”

Further, prevention is key in stopping the spread of heroin addiction. In order to prevent the increase in addiction, the medical community must prescribe much more carefully and cautiously. Sadly, most believe that the problems associated with heroin will only rise as it becomes more available and turf wars begin over the demand for the drug.

UtahHeroin use on the rise in Utah

Just three weeks ago, on April 4, the FBI released information regarding a heroin bust that occurred in Salt Lake City.  According to the fbi.gov website, “Thirteen arrests were made Wednesday as a part of a federal Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case targeting the distribution of methamphetamine and heroin in Utah by alleged members of the La Raza gang and their associates.  The individuals are charged in two indictments unsealed Wednesday and Thursday with distribution of methamphetamine and heroin; conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine and heroin; possession of methamphetamine and heroin with intent to distribute; and money laundering. During the execution of the arrests and searches Wednesday, law enforcement officers seized approximately 10 pounds of methamphetamine and heroin, seven firearms, eight vehicles, and approximately $175,000 in cash.”

This piece of news is shocking for many who believe Utah to be a family friendly, low crime, safe place to live.  However, as the local news channel, KSL recently reported, heroin use is on the rise and is finding its way into Utah at an alarming rate.  KSL discusses how Utah County, home to BYU, and probably the place most people stereotype as being safe and family friendly, is especially seeing a rise in heroin use.  KSL.com reports that, “According to the Utah Department of Health, 446 Utahns — 80 from Utah County — died from heroin use between 2008 and 2012. And if the amount of heroin being taken off the streets is any indication, use may be on the rise. Lt. Phil Murphy of the Orem Department of Public Safety said there are bags and bag full of heroin piled all over the evidence room table, which has been seized by the Utah County Major Crimes task force.  Murphy said heroin knows no boundaries. Mothers, fathers, business executives, athletes, scholars and even missionaries have all been caught in its grip. He added that heroin can be so powerful one use can hook even the most disciplined among us.  Murphy explained dealers are smuggling heroin any way they can, including inside soles of shoes or car parts. And if smuggling goes undetected by law enforcement, sellers will divvy it up into tiny balloons and distribute the balloons to users for about $15 each.”

Also interesting is the number of heroin related deaths in Utah from 2008-12 by county

  • Salt Lake County – 230
  • Utah – 80
  • Weber – 47
  • Davis – 32
  • Washington – 14
  • Tooele – 11
  • Summit – 7
  • Cache – 5

Source: State of Utah Department of Health


Deadly pack. Close-up of man putting a pack of narcotic into the pocketRising use of heroin

Recently, more attention has been focused on heroin abuse in the media than before.  It seems that while the use of abusing other drugs is decreasing, the abuse of heroin is on the rise in many parts of the country.

MSNBC reported recently that, “General Eric Holder, in a video message released by the Justice Department, spoke out on heroin addiction and its rising number of deaths (recently). In the video, Holder said the number of heroin overdose deaths rose by 45% between 2006 and 2010.”

Holder indicated that, “When confronting the problem of substance abuse, it makes sense to focus attention on the most dangerous types of drugs, and right now, few substances are more lethal than prescription opiates and heroin.” Holder further indicated that, “addiction to heroin and other opiates — including certain prescription painkillers—is impacting the lives of Americans in every state, in every region, and from every background and walk of life—and all too often, with deadly results.

Also, recent studies have shown that in suburbs and affluent areas, drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine and prescription medications are losing their popularity. While this might seem like something to celebrate, statistics from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) suggest that users of these other substances – most of which are prescription painkillers – are simply trading in their drug of choice for heroin.  In fact, according to a 2012 analysis by the administration, heroin abuse among first-time users has increased by 60 percent over the past 10 years.

Holder emphasized the government’s aggressive war on drugs and encouraged first responders to carry naloxone, a drug that can save the life of someone suffering from a heroin overdose.

Celebrities and Drug Overdose

The New York Times reports, “Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead of an apparent heroin overdose — with a hypodermic needle still stuck in his arm and 70 baggies of the drug inside his Greenwich Village pad Sunday, authorities said. He was 46…. Hoffman — a versatile and prolific actor famed for his vivid portrayals of troubled souls — had repeatedly struggled with substance abuse. He spent 10 days in rehab last year for abusing prescription pills and heroin after 23 years of sobriety.” (nypost.com)

This tragic news came as a shock to many who loved the Academy Award winning Capote and recent Hunger Games Hollywood star, just as many have been shocked about previous celebrity drug overdose related deaths.  The occurrence of celebrity drug overdose, which some feel is on the rise, begs the question, “Are celebrities more prone to addiction than non-celebrities?”

Perhaps they are.  Celebrities are certainly surrounded by the rich and famous, and Hollywood/pop culture often includes drug users.  Also, they often have a lot of money and cash is important and essential for an addict.  However, most would argue that celebrities are not more prone to drug abuse, but we definitely hear about it when they succumb to drug use.  Either way, drug overdose is always tragic, whether it involves a celebrity or not.


SocialMediaA captivating article was recently published on rehabinternational.com in relation to social media and teen drug use.  They found many key points including many staggering statistics, the prevalence of social media causing peer pressure to jump from social gatherings into your home, and the fact that parents who leave overnight double their chances of their teen’s drug use.

One of the most shocking statements made by the study’s authors about teen drug use and social media was, “With … cameras on every cell phone capturing every facet of life, it is no wonder that pictures of teens using drugs and alcohol are making there way onto social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace.” Further, it was “discovered that a staggering three-quarters of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 years old admitted that seeing photos of fellow classmates using drugs on social media encouraged them to do the same.”

Statistics from a study done by CASAColumbia (the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University) is also reported to have uncovered the following statistics related to teens and drug abuse:

  • About 86 percent of US high school students know someone at school who drinks, smokes or does drugs.
  • Approximately 50 percent know which classmate sells drugs.
  • Just over half of the students admit there is a place either on or near their campus where students use drugs before coming to school or between classes.
  • Just over a third believe doing drugs, smoking, or drinking alcohol is easy to do at school without detection.

Of those who knew a student dealer, 91 percent claimed marijuana was sold on campus, a quarter said prescription drugs, 9 percent said cocaine, and 7 percent claimed Ecstasy were all easily available at school. MySpace.

The CASAColumbia survey also looked at the impact of this new phenomenon and discovered that a staggering three-quarters of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 years old admitted that seeing photos of fellow teens using drugs on social media encouraged them to do the same.

Heroin2What is Heroin?

Heroin is a highly addictive drug derived from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seedpod of the Asian poppy plant. It is a “downer” or a depressant that affects the brain’s pleasure systems and interferes with the brain’s ability to perceive pain.  Heroin usually appears as a white or brown powder or a tar-like substance. Street names for heroin include “Big H”, “Black tar”, “Brown sugar”, “Dope”, “Horse”, “Junk”, “Muc”, “Skag”, and “Smac”.  Other names may refer to types of heroin produced in a specific geographical area, such as “Mexican black tar”.  
Although purer heroin is becoming more common, most street heroin is “cut” with other drugs or with substances such as sugar, starch, powdered milk, or quinine. Both new and experienced users risk overdosing on heroin because it is impossible for them to know the purity of the heroin they are using.

Heroin can be used in a variety of ways, depending on preference and the purity of the drug. Heroin can be injected into a vein (“mainlining”), injected into a muscle, smoked in a water pipe or standard pipe, mixed in a marijuana joint or regular cigarette, inhaled as smoke through a straw, known as “chasing the dragon,” snorted as powder via the nose.

The effects of heroin abuse appear soon after a single dose and disappear in a few hours. After an injection of heroin, the user reports feeling a surge of euphoria (“rush”) accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, a dry mouth, and heavy extremities. Following this initial euphoria, the user goes “on the nod,” an alternately wakeful and drowsy state. Mental functioning becomes clouded due to the depression of the central nervous system. Other effects can include slowed and slurred speech, slow gait, constricted pupils, droopy eyelids, impaired night vision, vomiting, and constipation.

Long-term effects of heroin appear after repeated use for some period of time. Chronic users may develop collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, cellulites, and liver disease. Pulmonary complications, including various types of pneumonia, may result from the poor health condition of the abuser, as well as from heroin’s depressing effects on respiration. In addition to the effects of the drug itself, street heroin may have additives that do not really dissolve and result in clogging the blood vessels that lead to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain. This can cause infection or even death of small patches of cells in vital organs. With regular heroin use, tolerance develops. This means the abuser must use more heroin to achieve the same intensity or effect.

As higher doses are used over time, physical dependence and addiction develop. With physical dependence, the body has adapted to the presence of the drug and withdrawal symptoms may occur if use is reduced or stopped. Withdrawal, which in regular abusers may occur as early as a few hours after the last administration, produces drug craving, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea and vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps (“cold turkey”), kicking movements (“kicking the habit”), and other symptoms. Major withdrawal symptoms peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last does and subside after about a week. Sudden withdrawal by heavily dependent users who are in poor health can be fatal.

Heroin overdoses can cause slow and shallow breathing, convulsions, coma, and even death.  Heroin is usually injected, sniffed/snorted, or smoked. Typically, a heroin abuser may inject up to four times a day. Intravenous injection provides the greatest intensity and most rapid onset of euphoria (7 to 8 seconds), while intramuscular injection produces a relatively slow onset of euphoria (5 to 8 minutes). When heroin is sniffed or smoked, peak effects are usually felt within 10 to 15 minutes. Although, smoking and sniffing heroin doesn’t usually produce a “rush” as quickly or as intensely as intravenous injection.

Heroin is a highly addictive drug, and its use is a serious problem. It is both the most abused and the most rapidly acting of the opiates.

References include: http://drug-effects.us/what-is-heroin, http://www.drugfree.org/drug-guide/heroin





What are opiates?

When asked this questions most of us think of poppy flowers, poppy seeds, Asia, or more recently, the drug heroin.  In researching what opiates really are, I came across an article written for teens describing them.  It was basic, very informative, and helped my understanding expand.  It was on the site http://teens.drugabuse.gov.  It states,” If you’ve ever seen “The Wizard of Oz,” then you’ve seen the poppy plant—the source of a type of drug called an opiate. When Dorothy lies down in a field of poppies, she falls into a deep sleep. No wonder the Latin name of this plant—Papaver somniferum—means ‘the poppy that makes you sleepy.’”

So, how do opiates work? 

Opiates act on many places in the brain and nervous system, including:

The limbic system (which controls emotions), the brainstem, which controls things your body does automatically, like breathing, and the spinal cord, which transmits sensations from the body.

In the limbic system, opiates can produce feelings of pleasure, relaxation, and contentment, opiates can act on the brainstem to slow breathing, stop coughing, and lessen feelings of pain, and opiates act in the spinal cord to decrease feelings of pain, even following serious injuries.

Whether it is a medication like Vicodin or a street drug like heroin, the effects of opiates (and many other drugs) depend on how much you take and how you take it. If opiates are swallowed as pills, they take longer to reach the brain. If they are injected, they act faster and can produce a quick, intense feeling of pleasure followed by a sense of well-being and a calm drowsiness.

Basically, just like any other drug, opiates have an important purpose in medicine.  However, when abused, opiates are highly addictive and can create difficult withdrawal symptoms and Dorothy (being healthy) should have run as fast as she could down the yellow brick road away from them!

A 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimated that 3.7 million people in the U.S. had used heroin, and 119,000 of those surveyed had used heroin within one month of the survey.  It’s important to be able to spot the signs of heroin abuse, and encourage the person using heroin to immediately seek rehab treatment.

Heroin comes in many forms.Signs of Heroin Abuse

There are many indicators of heroin abuse that can include performance issues (at school and work), withdrawal from family and friends, and even a disregard for personal hygiene and attire.

Other signs of heroin abuse can include:

  • Runny nose and sneezing
  • Lying
  • Theft to support drug habit
  • Apathy toward life and activities
  • Euphoria
  • Depression
  • Constricted pupils
  • Shallow breathing
  • The “empty” stare or gaze

Finding Treatment for the Heroin User

If you suspect or know someone that is suffering from heroin abuse, the first step is to talk to that person (and not fight!) about their addiction, and encourage them to seek help.  A lot of heroin addicts may feel like they’re a lost cause.  Don’t give up!

Many heroin rehab centers can help with this step of intervention, as it’s often the hardest step for many to achieve.  Once the heroin abuse problem has been acknowledged, the user should seek treatment at an accredited and trusted drug rehab facility to help them get clean and sober.

The following numbers are nasty!  An area of concern is the nonmedical use of prescription drugs.  Among 12th-graders, 8 of the 13 most commonly abused drugs (other than cigarettes and alcohol) were prescription medications, over half of which were given to them or were purchased from a friend or family member!  According to the 2009 MFT survey, past-year non-medical use of Oxycontin increased during the last 5 years among 10th graders and remained unchanged, still scary, among 8th graders and 12th graders.  Nearly 1 in 20 high school students report abusing Oxycontin.  Since 2008, according to NSDUH, the number of students who abused prescription pain relievers for the first time (2.2 million in 2009) was roughly even with that of marijuana.

Oxycontin abuse often leads to heroin addiction, so be careful, talk with your kids about drug and alcohol addiction and watch them.  Know their friends!  If you see any drastic changes, remember what your parents used to always say and start watching out.  If you or a loved one starts to struggle, change friends, show changes in personality and activities check into it quickly.  If the signs point to addiction get help immediately.

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