A very popular drug in the 60s and 70s, heroin is finding its popularity growing once again. Heroin overdose deaths have climbed in Maryland, according to a new report by the state’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
The state posted a 41 percent increase in heroin overdose deaths, to 205 in the first seven months of the year from 145 over the same period last year, according to the report. Overdose deaths from prescription drugs like oxycodone and hydrocodone dropped from 208 to 177 over the same time period.
On the Eastern Shore, we are seeing similar increases. According to statistics provided by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, heroin overdose deaths increased from 10 during the period of January to July 2011 to 18 during the same period of 2012. In Talbot County, the number of overdose cases reporting Heroin as their primary substance doubled from 5% in 2011 to 10% in 2012, according to statistics from the Health Department.
According to Gary Pearce, Director of Talbot Partnership for Alcohol & Other Drug Abuse Prevention,”Heroin is an opiate drug. With the recent proliferation of prescription opioid painkillers, opiate use has become far more widespread than ever before. Because of drugs like Oxycontin and Vicodin, more people are familiar with the effects of opioid medications, which, by extension, makes heroin seem less scary and not so exotic.”
Many people, including teenagers, no longer associate heroin with the horror stories of overdose and crippling addiction. Instead, they associate it more and more with those relatively safe and familiar prescription drugs. The result is that, for young people especially, prescription opioids can act as gateway drugs to heroin.
Compounding this problem is the fact that heroin is often far cheaper than its prescription counterparts. A single pill of Vicodin or Oxycontin can be anywhere from $40 to $75, while a small bag of heroin may cost less than a six pack of beer and achieve the same high. So, for anyone already addicted to prescription opioids, cheap, accessible heroin may seem like a much better deal.
Adding to the problem is the fact that today’s heroin is as much as 15 times as potent as the heroin of decades past. When you combine this factor with the low price and increased accessibility of the drug, teens are in grave danger. Even when it wasn’t so potent, heroin was already one of the most dangerous and addictive illicit drugs on the market.
For further information on the dangers of heroin or other drugs, contact Talbot Partnership at 410-819-8067. Please also visit our website at www.talbotpartnership.org or find us on Facebook.