OxyContin Abusers Move on to Heroin: County Health Officials

Heroin addicts being treated in county facilities increases by more than 50 percent

By Lauren Steussy
|  Wednesday, Feb 22, 2012  |  Updated 2:12 PM PDT
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OxyContin Abusers Move on to Heroin

Heroin abuse among young adults in San Diego more than tripled in the last five years, according to new data from the county’s health agency.

Addicts being treated in County-funded centers increased by 57 percent and accounted for nearly 17 percent of all treatment admission, Also, a growing number of addicts are young men, the agency said.

“There’s been a scary increase in heroin abuse,” said Susan Bower, director of Alcohol and Drug Services for the County Health and Human Services Agency.

At the County’s Medical Examiner’s office, heroin deaths are also becoming more frequent.

The reason for the increased admissions? County officials say the cost of attaining OxyContin, a prescription pain-killer, is rising. Addicts may be switching to heroin as a cheaper alternative.

Also, many appear to have used perscription pain killers as a gateway drug to Heroin use.

"In talking with our treatment centers, and some of the parents affected by their children's drug abuse, we're seeing people coming in with a primary heroin problem, who report that they started with perscription pain killers," said Bower.

Methamphetamine is still the primary reason people seek treatment, and alcohol abuse is an overriding substance treated at the county's centers. Heroin abuse, however, hasn't been as much of an issue in the past several decades.

"Drugs come and go," Bower said. "Heroin has not been the drug of choice for a long time, but now it's really making a come back."

Those concerned about either drug can call the county's Access and Crisis Line at 888-724-7240.
 

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