Of course for some communities heroin never really went away, but the Wall Street Journal reports that in small American towns the decreased street availability of prescription painkillers has led to a resurgence:
ELLENSBURG, Wash.—This small city east of the Cascade Mountains is known for its hay farms, rodeos and, increasingly, something more sinister: a growing heroin problem.
The drug surfaced in the past two years and is spawning a new generation of addicts. The fatal overdose of a state trooper’s son in May convulsed the town—especially when the two men arrested and charged with selling him heroin turned out to be a county official’s sons. They pleaded not guilty in Kittitas County Superior Court and are awaiting trial.
“It really shook our community,” said Norman Redberg, executive director of Kittitas County Alcohol Drug Dependency Service. He has evaluated 27 heroin users in the fiscal year that ended June 30, compared with three in 2008. Ellensburg has 18,000 residents.
Heroin use in the U.S. is soaring, especially in rural areas, amid ample supply and a shift away from costlier prescription narcotics that are becoming tougher to acquire. The number of people who say they have used heroin in the past year jumped 53.5% to 620,000 between 2002 to 2011, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. There were 3,094 overdose deaths in 2010, a 55% increase from 2000, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Much of the heroin that reaches smaller towns such as Ellensburg comes from Mexico, where producers have ramped up production in recent years, drug officials say. Heroin seizures at the Southwest border, from Texas to California, ballooned to 1,989 kilograms in fiscal 2012 from 487 kilograms in 2008, according to figures from the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The heroin scourge has been driven largely by a law-enforcement crackdown on illicit use of prescription painkillers such as oxycodone and drug-company reformulations that make the pills harder to crush and snort, drug officials say. That has pushed those who were addicted to the pills to turn to heroin, which is cheaper and more plentiful…
[continues in the Wall Street Journal]