The Resurgence Of Heroin

Heroin Is Pure, Cheap, And Easier To Get Than Oxycontin

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Dr. Sam Silverman, Addiction Psychiatrist, Rushford Center
Photo:Chion Wolf
Dale Hourigan, Commander, Connecticut State Police Narcotics Task Force
Photo:Chion Wolf
The Resurgence Of Heroin
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The Resurgence Of Heroin

Prescription painkillers have become the most widely-used drugs in America, and the Centers for Disease Control says that deaths from overdose are at “epidemic” levels. The death rate has tripled since 1990.

Doctors are prescribing fewer of the opiates, because they fear addiction, abuse and illegal black market sales.

But, as those drugs become harder to get, a growing number of people are now turning to heroin. It’s cheaper, more accessible, no longer needs to be injected into a vein, and in the same class of opiates as these popular painkillers.

Andrew Kezulas is an addict who turned to heroin from Oxcontin.  He spoke to the New York Times to say, “This is not a drug problem. It’s an addiction problem. Oxycontin was big, heroin was cheaper, more potent. I was fully addicted to opiates. It was there. I was not feeling well and I knew it would make me feel better, so I did it. I thought of the heroin user as homeless, unemployable, living in a tent under a bridge so I danced the dance with it.”

This disturbing trend is just one of many reasons heroin use is on the rise in New England.  

Today, where we live, the spread of heroin, the link to other opioids, treatment, and what law enforcement is doing about it.  

Please leave your comments below, email us at, or tweet us @wherewelive. 

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Phil writes:

As usual, I found your show today about opiate addiction very interesting and informative. I was hugely disappointed, however, that neither you nor anyone else really questioned the long term use of suboxone. While I am neither a physician nor a substance abuse expert, my sense from folks who have struggled with addiction is that a heroin addict who begins a suboxone regimen is trading one dependence for another. One is legal and safer, but, like methadone, suboxone is a substitute substance upon which the addict is also dependent.

I was also flabbergasted that no one mentioned the one, long term approach that has been proven to be hugely beneficial in dealing with what is admittedly a lifelong problem. Narcotics Anonymous, like Alcoholics Anonymous, is the most helpful and demonstrably helpful form of assistance. Most folks in this 12 step program do not believe that a person who is dependent upon suboxone is "clean". It may be appropriate as a relatively short term treatment, but again, it is another substance upon which the individual is dependent. The idea that the only treatment for drug dependence (much of which is at least partially the responsibility of doctors' prescribing practices) is more pharmaceutical therapy (again to be managed by physicians) is predictable from the medical community, but it is not fully embraced by the recovery community.

I recognize that it is difficult for a doctor from Rushford to say on the air that the ultimate solution may not be a pharmaceutical one. He did talk about Suboxone along with other therapy, I believe, and my guess is that he would recommend NA to his patients. But, with all due respect, I think you missed the elephant in the (recovery) room by not discussing the 12 step programs. For substance abusers, whether alcohol, pharmaceuticals, or street drugs, there is no intervention which has been as successful. I hope you will consider having a future show which includes NA and AA spokesmen to correct this oversight.

Again, I always enjoy your show and listen regularly. I hope you will consider my comments in the spirit in which they are offered; not criticism, but an attempt to move the conversation forward.

Jonathan writes:

The show is great this AM! Thanks for the coverage.

I would like to hear the speakers talk about the PMP (prescription monitoring program) and the effects it is having on the over-prescribing of drugs like OxyContin. I am an APRN in private and community practice and have been able to discover patients at risk for or who are currently abusing controlled substances with this program.

I am frustrated that APRNs are not allowed to prescribe suboxone. We are prevented from taking the certification course that MDs take in order to prescribe. I am allowed to prescribe OxyContin and potentially start a patients addiction but I am not allowed to treat my patients with the very effective suboxone treatment. There are few suboxone prescribers out there and many of them are cash only practices. We are under serving patients who need treatment and I would like to hear the speakers discuss the rational for why APRNs are prevented from prescribing Suboxone.