Because I’m going to post a few more silly items later on in the day, I wanted to get the serious stuff out of the way first. I want to direct your attention to Marina Koren over at The Atlantic, who is reporting on the latest effort from the Obama Administration to curb the horrific rise of heroin usage in the U.S. After pointing out the unfortunate statistics from the latest CDC report, which shows heroin deaths in the U.S. have almost quadrupled from 2002-2013, Koren details administrators plan to find out where the heroin is emanating from, how it is becoming so pervasive on street corners everywhere in America and what additives is the heroin being compounded with. Because heroin is now sold at a very low price, as well as the increased rise in prescription pain killer abuse, over 8,200 people died from heroin overdoses in 2013. Koren cites Michael Botticelli, director of National Drug Control Policy, who is adamant that is both a public safety and a public health issue. Moreover, there have been increased rates in people who have used heroin who are normally atypical users (i.e. women and people in higher-income brackets).
Also, as reported by the AP, the states most affected by increased heroin use are in the Eastern U.S. Furthermore, the $5 million grant will direct “[a]bout half of the money [to] fund a program to link public health and law enforcement agencies, with the goal of prioritizing treatment for drug users over punishments.”
Expect this to be an especially hot topic in the New Hampshire primaries, as heroin use in northern New England have skyrocketed over the last few years. The following is from Katherine Seelye at the NY Times from 2013:
“Heroin killed 21 people in Maine last year, three times as many as in 2011, according to the state’s Office of Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services. New Hampshire recorded 40 deaths from heroin overdoses last year, up from just 7 a decade ago. In Vermont, the Health Department reported that 914 people were treated for heroin abuse last year, up from 654 the year before, an increase of almost 40 percent…
Yet the rise in heroin abuse here predated the restrictions on painkillers, leading some officials to blame the simple law of supply and demand. Distributors in New York see a wide-open market in northern New England, where law enforcement can be spotty and users are willing to pay premium prices. A $6 bag of heroin in New York City fetches $10 in southern New England but up to $30 or $40 in northern New England, law enforcement officials said. The dealer gets a tremendous profit margin, while the addict pays half of what he might have to shell out for a prescription painkiller.”
This initiative is a very good idea, particularly the part about focusing on emphasizing treatment. As someone who knows people who have lost loved ones to heroin usage, this is even more important to me that this program succeeds in curbing the pervasiveness of heroin. This could help save many lives. Hopefully it will.