Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Heroin: Get the Facts

Prevention Works!

March 9, 2010 – Georgetown Record Headline: Man charged with heroin possession (in Georgetown). In the article, Police Chief Mulligan says that “Heroin use here in Georgetown is not common; however, we are concerned it’s on the rise.” Let’s hope Chief Mulligan is right, that it is not common. But why would it be on rise? And how can we protect our children?

A few causes for concern include:
- Opioid prescription drug abuse, which is on the rise, is the precursor for heroin use. Many heroin users today started with Rx drugs, which became too expensive for them, so they switched to save money.
- The street prices have decreased substantially over the past years.
- The National Drug Intelligence Center (NDIC), a federal agency, has found that that Mexican drug cartels are targeting the North Eastern U.S. for market growth.
- The DEA is clear that heroin and cocaine are currently still the most widely used and distributed illicit drugs in Massachusetts, but since the introduction of OxyContin, the number of individuals addicted to heroin has continued to rise whereas the number of individuals dependent upon cocaine has dramatically decreased.

As concerned citizens, the first thing we want to do is become informed. The second thing is to talk, talk, talk to our children: Parents are our children’s most powerful teachers!

Heroin: Get the Facts
Knowledge is Power: The #1 deterrent of substance abuse in teens is PARENTS!
From GeorgetownCARES –
Did you know? Heroin is a highly addictive, dangerous, and illegal (Schedule 1 narcotic) drug.
* Today’s heroin is 90% pure, so users can smoke it or snort it, causing more kids under 18 to use it.
* Many users of heroin today have transitioned from prescription opioid abuse (Oxycontin-Oxy 80’s most popular, etc) to heroin because heroin is much cheaper ($5-15 a bag) and more easily available.
* Heroin is the top-ranking drug among drug-related deaths in 14 major metro areas, according to DAWN, the Drug Abuse Warning Network’s Annual Medical Examiner Data.
* According to Monitoring the Future (MTF), in 2008 among U.S. High School Seniors, 39% did not see “great risk” in using heroin once or twice, and 25% said heroin was “fairly or very easy” to get.

What is heroin? Heroin is processed from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seeds of the Asian poppy plant. Heroin usually appears as a white or brown powder. Darker pieces are called “black tar.” It may be combined with marijuana, cocaine, speed or other drugs.

Where does it come from? According to the NDTA (National Drug Threat Assessment), most heroin available in the US comes from Mexico or Columbia; heroin from southern Asia is rare here. Heroin trafficking and abuse are most prevalent in eastern states. The strong and lucrative heroin markets in these states are attracting Mexican criminal groups, who are looking to build markets in urban areas.

Signs of Use: Pupils contract, pupils not responsive to light, cold clammy skin, dreamy state with drooping eyelids, nausea/vomiting, dry mouth, face & arm itching, constipation, needle marks.

Narcotic use medical traits: decreased respiration and pulse rate, low body temperature & blood pressure

Short term effects: Heroin acts as a depressant. Mental functioning becomes clouded due to the depression of the central nervous system. A surge of euphoria (“rush”) appears soon after a single dose and disappears in a few hours. The user also experiences a warm flushing of the skin, a dry mouth, and heaviness in the extremities. Following this initial euphoria, the user goes “on the nod,” an alternately wakeful and drowsy state. Overdoses: Depending on drug interactions and numerous other factors, death from overdose can take anywhere from several minutes to several hours. An overdose is immediately reversible with an opioid antagonist injection. Heroin overdoses can occur accidentally due to an unexpected increase in the dose or purity. Many fatalities reported as overdoses are probably caused by interactions with other depressant drugs like alcohol. It should also be noted that since heroin can cause nausea and vomiting, a significant number of deaths attributed to heroin overdose are caused by aspiration of vomit by an unconscious victim.

Long term effects: Heroin is a highly addictive drug use is associated with serious health conditions, including fatal overdose, collapsed veins, clogged blood vessels, damaged heart valves, liver disease, pulmonary complications/depressing effects on respiration; infectious diseases from shared needles include HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. Regular use leads to tolerance. Use in pregnant women can result in miscarriage.

Current use: Although heroin use is stable, with close to 1.25% of US high school students having tried heroin in their lifetime, (MTF, 2008), it could increase as more prescription narcotics abusers switch to heroin. At this time, the average age at first use of heroin among recent initiates aged 12 to 49 was 23.4 years (MTF, 2008). Officials in treatment facilities throughout the country report that many abusers of prescription opiates such as OxyContin, Percocet, and Vicodin eventually begin abusing heroin because it is typically cheaper and easier to obtain, and it provides a more intense high. Treatment officials also report that once an individual switches from prescription opiates to heroin, he or she rarely switches back to exclusively abusing prescription opiates. According to NSDUH data, the rate of past year abuse for prescription narcotics for individuals aged 12 and older increased from 4.7 percent in 2002 to 5.0 percent in 2007; moreover a higher number of first-time abusers of drugs (2,147,000) abused opioid pain relievers than any other drug in 2007. As the number of prescription narcotics users rises, the number of individuals switching from prescription narcotics to heroin will likely rise as well. In some areas, such as Ohio, this trend is already apparent in treatment centers.

Sources:, ,,, www.casacolumbia.

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