Legislators, Officials Look for Ways to Stem Mounting Heroin Crisis

Federal legislators and officials say there is an alarming increase in the amount of heroin being brought into the United States, The Washington Times reports. At a hearing of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations, legislators called for solutions to this public health crisis.

John Riley, Acting Deputy Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), told legislators that drug runners who work for or with drug cartels in Mexico are responsible for half of the U.S. street supply of heroin. He said heroin is being smoked or snorted by young people who see the drug as “recreational.”

“I’ve been with DEA almost 30 years and I have to tell you, I have never seen it this bad,” he said.

Heroin use rose significantly over the past 11 years, according to a report released in April by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. In the past year, 681,000 Americans aged 12 and older used heroin. Most people who used heroin were 26 or older, but an estimated 31,000 teens used heroin in 2013, the report found.

The number of people addicted to heroin rose from 214,000 in 2002 to 517,000 in 2013.

Since 2009, heroin seizures along the U.S.-Mexico border have nearly tripled, as law enforcement seized 2,181 kilograms of Mexican heroin last year alone, according to a subcommittee news release.

The sharp increase in heroin use is partly due to prescription drug abuse, the release notes. Opioid painkillers have a similar effect on the body as heroin. Since heroin is much cheaper than prescription opioids, many people addicted to the pills switch to heroin.

“Once someone is addicted to a prescription opioid, the need to satisfy their addiction outweighs the stigma attached to heroin use,” said Subcommittee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia said in a news release. “Additionally, it is far easier to pay $10 for a dose of heroin than $80 for an oxycodone tablet.”

11 Responses

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    Bruce Caldwell

    August 20, 2015 at 4:34 AM

    I don’t think anything will change significantly until we admit & accept the fact that the War On Drugs has been an utter failure. Prohibition did not work with alcohol & it has not & will not ever work for any other drug. I say get rid of the DEA to start with & use the money that goes into their budget for various treatment options & perhaps realistic preventive measures. I’ll give an example. I’ve had an on & off relationship with opioids for 43 years & a few years ago I was treated with the drug Ibogaine for my dependency on opioids. I had to go to Mexico to do it because it is a schedule 1 drug here in the U.S. of course. Ibogaine is by no means a cure but it damn sure works & until we end the idiotic war on addicts it probably won’t be available to those who could benefit from it here in this country.

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    Billy, RPh, CACII

    July 29, 2015 at 5:05 PM

    I forgot to add how the CDC and others have “promoted” this increase in Heroin use. For years now these authorities have stressed the “danger” of Rx opioids by stating that “Rx opioids kill more people each year than heroin and cocaine combined…”. In doing so they have endorsed the idea that “Heroin and cocaine are safer than Rx opioids”. Not intentionally of course but a third grader could have seen that coming! Hopefully in the future such figures in authority will consider the possible outcomes of their statements. And thanks for your endorsement Katie. Gets lonely on this side of the argument at times!

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    July 29, 2015 at 4:49 PM

    Why don’t we just “regulate” it? After all, it’s working so well for marijuana, alcohol, and tobacco. Those industry heads become wealthy and can afford to pay lobbyists to buy off our legislative reps. Besides, isn’t addiction a small price to pay as long as governments profit?

    Billy RPH, you are so correct… demand reduction is our only hope. Obama can throw money at treatment all day long, but treatment resources will quickly become swamped by treatment demands. Preventing drug use is the most effective and cheapest solution.

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    John Coppola (NY Assoc. Of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse ProvidersL

    July 29, 2015 at 12:50 PM

    An investment adequate to address all dimensions of the current prescription opioide/heroin addiction and overdose epidemic is needed. Specifically, we need an investment in evidence-based prevention (school and community-based), a comprehensive continuum of treatment services, and recovery support services. Our approach should be public health oriented not criminal justice.

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    Billy, RPh, CACII

    July 29, 2015 at 12:33 PM

    Please don’t wait on the DEA or any other law enforcement authorities to have any meaningful effect on heroin (or any other drug) supplies in the US. These folks have been at this since 1970 with little if any success.People in the US are demanding that they have drugs to use. The only thing that can be effective is to reduce this demand. Take the money that DEA is getting and put it into prevention and treatment and the results will be different. Blaming heroin use on prescription opioid abuse is missing the point. 95% of all prescription opioid abusers were either abusing or addicted to some other drug before they even tried opioids! While focusing on supply side issues may be sexy and make a lot of headlines in reality it does very little to effect drug use. Strong-arm tactics and being “tough on drugs” always makes us feel like we are doing something when in reality nothing gets done that is effective.

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