Heroin use is on the rise in Connecticut and nationwide. According to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, heroin arrests and seizures in the northeast outpace the rest of the country, two to one.
Between 2010 and 2012, the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services saw a 25 percent jump in patients seeking rehab for heroin use.
Experts attribute the rise in heroin use to a combination of factors. For one, heroin has become increasingly pure, and users are opting to snort heroin rather than inject it, which often carries a stigma for new users.
Another significant factor is the over-prescribing of opiate pain killers by doctors, which has opened the floodgates to potential new heroin users.
Dr. Melinda Campopiano, the medical officer for the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment at the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, talked about the problem on WNPR's Where We Live. "For example," she said, "even a person who takes a pain medication as prescribed for as little as two weeks can lead to dependence. Obviously, there is concern for that portion of people who will transition from opioid analgesics over to heroin when these medications are no longer available to them."
Heroin is often cheaper than black market prescription opiates, and is easier to obtain. But Dr. Surita Rao, director of the behavioral health department at St. Francis Hospital, said on Where We Live that for people who are susceptible to addiction, heroin can be particularly devastating. "If they use it long enough," she said, "and sometimes it's only a few times, then their brain is completely hijacked. The brain believes that this drug is more important than anything else."