In recent years, heroin use has skyrocketed in the U.S. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, after three deaths last month in Flagstaff that police suspect resulted from overdoses, use of and access to the drug seems to have also spiked in northern Arizona.
The Flagstaff Police Department suspects the January overdoses were a result of opioids. And two of those were potentially from the same batch of heroin. Use of the drug in Arizona is on the rise. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, between 2008 and 2012 police seizures in the state nearly quadrupled.
Though no specific statistics are available for northern Arizona heroin use, in the last year the Flagstaff-based Guidance Center has seen treatment of opioid dependence more than double. According to the center’s chief executive officer, Jack Callaghan, opioids include heroin and many prescription painkillers, drugs that often go hand-in-hand with users.
“Nationally there’s what they call an integration of heroin and prescription painkillers … If you can’t get your hands on the prescription painkillers, heroin is an option, and conversely, folks sometimes — if they can get their hands on prescription painkillers usually there’s a substitute, if you will, or a complement to heroin,” Callaghan says.
The Guidance Center is currently treating 36 patients for dependence on opioids. During the same month last year, it was 17. Callaghan says on average about a third of the Guidance Center’s patients are there for opioid treatment. And, heroin users can be found in almost all segments of the population.
“People who are very successful and have lots of resources to more down-and-out individuals who struggle with getting the resources to support their habits. Yeah, it’s a wide range of folks,” Callaghan says.
According to the Flagstaff Police Department, in the last year local seizures of heroin have been relatively light.