Police in Louisville, Kentucky say they are seeing a rise in the use of heroin, as prescription painkillers become more difficult to obtain. People who formerly were addicted to painkillers are now turning to heroin, which is cheaper, easier to get, and very potent.
Law enforcement crackdowns on abuse of prescription opioids have led to a rise in street prices for the pills. In addition, drug manufacturers have reformulated pain pills to make them more difficult to abuse, according to The Courier-Journal.
The newspaper notes the amount of heroin seized by Louisville police jumped from 104 grams in 2008, to 7,087 grams so far in 2012. During that time, heroin arrests rose from 32 to 364. Hospitals and drug-treatment facilities are reporting an increase in patients using heroin.
People who use heroin often do not fit the stereotype of drug users, police say. They often are educated and employed, but can no longer find the prescription pills they need.
Dan Smoot, Deputy Director of the Eastern Kentucky anti-drug organization Operation UNITE, told the newspaper that heroin is “nowhere near what our pill problem is. (But) it’s my belief heroin is going to slowly replace the pharmaceuticals. I see it as the next big problem.”
Van Ingram, Director of Kentucky’s Office of Drug Control Policy, noted that heroin is highly addictive and risky. The drug can be cut with dangerous ingredients, and may be stronger than expected, which can lead to overdoses, he said.
The rise in heroin use is being seen nationally, NBC News reported this summer.