A growing use of heroin has showed up in local obituaries and police logs as new users unfamiliar with the drug , overdose on it.
Also, growing numbers of people from New Hampshire and Maine are driving to Massachusetts to purchase the drug - often getting arrested in border communities.
The profile of a heroin user has begun to shift over the last two or three years, experts said, with a drug typically chained in the public’s mind to the urban poor has moved out to the suburbs and up the economic ladder.
“Most of the evidence we have, assuming Massachusetts is not much different from the rest of the country, is that, one, overall the number of users is increasing, and two, the increase seems to be not so much in inner cites or minority populations,” said Professor Richard Siegel, chairman of the University Massachusetts Lowell’s psychology department.
“In the last two years it seems to be more in the suburbs; people who are perhaps higher on the socioeconomic scale, not in minority populations, and with females, said Siegal, who is also a practicing psychologist and an expert on the psychology behind addictions.
Siegel said he has seen some indications, in talking with professionals at treatment centers, that the profile of heroin “users seem to be a bit younger than it used to be, in their 20s and early 30s. It was 30s, early 40s years ago.”
As the type of people using heroin has spread beyond the popular image of a user – poor, urban, older – into younger suburban people, smaller towns unaccustomed to dealing with it, are finding themselves confronted with the criminal and medical problems.
An Andover teenager and recent Andover High School graduate died at home of a possible overdose this summer, according to police.
Police in Andover arrested two Lawrence men July 16 at 70 School St. and charged them with possession with intent to sell and possession in a school zone.