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National News

April 6, 2014

'We're all paying:' Heroin spreads misery in US

(Continued)

In 2007, there were an estimated 373,000 heroin users in the U.S. By 2012, the number was 669,000, with the greatest increases among those 18 to 25. First-time users nearly doubled in a six-year period ending in 2012, from 90,000 to 156,000.

MINNESOTA: TAKING THE MESSAGE TO THE MASSES

The night before Valentine’s Day, some 250 people filed into a church in Spring Lake Park, Minn. There were moms and dads of addicts, as well as children whose parents brought them in hopes of scaring them away from smack.

From the stage, Dan Douglas gripped a microphone as a photograph appeared overhead on a screen: A woman in the fetal position on a bathroom floor. Then another: A woman “on the nod” — passed out with drug paraphernalia and a shoe near her face.

“You just don’t win with heroin,” Douglas told the crowd. “You die or you go to jail.”

It was the third such forum held over two weeks in Anoka County, home to 335,000 people north of Minneapolis. Since 1999, 55 Anoka County residents have died from heroin-related causes. Only one other Minnesota county reported more heroin-related deaths — 58 — and it has a population three-and-a-half times greater than Anoka’s.Five years ago, county officials were focused on stamping out meth labs.

Then investigators noticed a climb in pharmacy robberies, and started finding Percocet and OxyContin during routine marijuana busts.

As prescription drug abuse rose, so, too, did crackdowns aimed at shutting down pill mills and increasing tracking of prescriptions and pharmacy-hopping pill seekers. Users turned to heroin. “It hit us in the face in the form of dead bodies,” says Douglas.

OHIO: OD ANTIDOTE HELPS SAVE SOME

Brakes screech. The hospital door flies open. A panicked voice shouts: “Help my friend!”

An unconscious young man, in the throes of a heroin overdose, is lifted onto a gurney.It’s known as a “drive-up, drop-off,” and it’s happened repeatedly at Ohio’s Fort Hamilton Hospital.

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