U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy held a roundtable forum on Thursday about how to deal with the heroin problem in Connecticut. Senator Blumenthal described the situation as an "epidemic and [a] scourge."
"Heroin deaths have increased in Connecticut, alone, to 257 last year," Blumenthal said, "from 174 the years before. Between 2007 and 2012, heroin use increased 80 percent or more, according to federal figures."
Senator Chris Murphy said heroin is cheap and readily available in Connecticut. "The heroin that comes into New England," he said, "starts in Stamford, Bridgeport, and New Haven, and makes its way north from here. It means that users here in Connecticut can get the drug for a relatively small amount."
Last month, Senators Blumenthal and Murphy unveiled a plan to stem the alarming tide of heroin abuse in Connecticut, with more funding for the treatment of heroin addiction.
Recovering heroin addict Eric Burdett told the panel that the shame of addiction often discourages people from seeking help. "If we could somehow de-stigmatize these addictions," he said, "and make it so that people were more comfortable in coming forward, that would be a big help."
The forum was an opportunity for the senators to pitch their plan to Michael Botticelli, acting director of The Office of National Drug Control, and himself a former addict. The ONDCP advises the President on drug control issues, and coordinates activities and related funding.
According to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, heroin arrests and seizures in the northeast outpace the rest of the country two to one.