Heroin Use Reaches Epidemic Levels in Arizona

Proximity to the border, as well as the nation’s youth beginning to switch from expensive pain pills such as Oxycontin, to cheaper, and more widely available heroin have led to an increase of heroin use in Arizona that is unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

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The Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Drug Threat Assessment Survey for 2013 reports that United States Customs and Border Patrol agents seized 232-percent more her heroin in 2013 than it had in 2008. The last five years have seen a significant increase in the numbers of overdose cases, arrests, and criminal convictions than at any other time in the state’s history. The additional heroin seized at the border shows a four-fold increase from 2008 that accounted for over 4,600 pounds being confiscated just last year.

Officials reported that almost all heroin that makes it way to the United States is made from opium poppies grown or processed in either Mexico or Colombia before making its way through one of several border checkpoints between Mexico and Arizona.

According to Dr. Lenn Ditmanson of Cope Community Services, “The availability of heroin is increasing all the time. No one comes in here saying they cannot find heroin.”

This increase in supply has coincided with a time where proven programs for drug education and awareness, such as D.A.R.E. were being cut nationwide. In addition, the medical marijuana initiative in states such as California, led the Mexican drug cartels to shift their focus to providing a cheaper and more powerful alternative for a nation that was already experiencing another epidemic, this one of teens and young adults becoming addicted to their parents readily available pain medications. Ultimately a cheaper alternative that is more powerful than traditional prescription pain medications, and more readily available began to take hold not only in Arizona, but nationwide.

This reliable supply accompanied with prices that make small amounts of heroin cheaper than buying beer in some cases has led to increased arrests, deaths by accidental overdose, and an overall increase in those requiring drug abuse counseling or rehabilitation in the state of Arizona. The numbers are actually quite staggering. According to a 2013 a Vital Statistics report by the Arizona Department of Health Services, drug-induced deaths have more than doubled since 2008 (523 vs 1,099 in 2013). Another report by the Department of Health Services showed that heroin related deaths rose from 65 in 2003, to 126 in 2013 according to death certificate data.

With a cheap supply and a powerfully addictive substance like heroin, the problem is going to continue to get worse until the United States and Mexico can figure a way to cut off the supply. Until then education and rehabilitation before a fatal incident are necessary to combat this growing issue. Arizona’s youth has struggled with addiction as overdose-related fatalities, arrests/convictions, and the need for quality drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs continues to increase.

Prescott House continues to treat many men that have become tangled in the epidemic.  Through the use of a sober living, long-term treatment facility located right here in Arizona, many men find the strength as well as the knowledge they need to break the grips of addiction once and for all. Please contact us to find out how we can help you or a loved one who struggles with addiction.

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Zach Lindley—Admissions Team

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