Heroin deaths on the rise: Matt's Memo

Images from a heroin bust.

Prices are down. Profits are up. Heroin is taking more lives. We heard it directly from the Onondaga County Health Department. The number of heroin overdose deaths more than doubled from one year to the next. Since 2010 50 people have died.

Our reporter Dora Scheidel interviewed a recovering addict today. Wendi Owens told us her addiction started when she took hydrocodone after knee surgery. At some point she could no longer keep getting the prescription medication pills to which she had become addicted. She switched to heroin and absolutely fell in love with the sensation and euphoria of the drug. That love affair ultimately nearly killed her and cost her the parenting rights to her own son.

I recall 15 years ago police investigators were already talking about the slow return of heroin. Some investigators today say heroin never went away, but its customer base is changing. The white suburban heroin user is more common today than it was a few years ago. One counselor told us the drugs available are also more pure which is increasing potency.

Drug trends tend to come in phases and waves. In the early 90's crack was king. Three years ago bath salts and designer drugs popped up and went away. Meth has wreaked havoc in rural communities and small towns. But, now we're talking heroin all the time.

There will be something that turns the tide against it. Maybe it will be a continued increase in overdose deaths that supresses demand. Maybe the legislature will toughen laws for dealing heroin. Maybe investigators will find a way to cut into the international pipeline for the drug.

Meanwhile we will continue to count the overdoses, the deaths and the renewed concern that a terribly addictive drug is becoming more commonly used in our community.


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