EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 17, 2014

Letter: Chasing the Dragon for cheap highs

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — To the editor:

As reported by Angeljean Chiaramida on Feb. 14, there has been an unusual run of reported overdoes and deaths of late related to “bad heroin.” Unfortunately, this misnomer fuels misconceptions of drug abuse as an extremely isolated event among individuals who are far removed from the mainstream.

The reality is that drug abuse is a mainstream problem, more ominously prevalent than most know. There is no such thing as good heroin to assuage our fears about bad heroin. The headlines reporting the latest scourge in our neighborhoods are related to heroin laced with fentanyl, an extremely powerful opiate. This “bad batch” serves only one useful purpose: illuminating how common drug abuse is.

There are many institutional failures in our society that contribute to drug abuse. The two most obvious ones are family and schools. We are all responsible fro counseling our children about the dangers of drug abuse and other substances, and we should expect well-defined programs of education and even interventions in our schools. When these two institutions fail, no private or government program is sufficient to save a child’s life. But I would argue the true “front line” is where medicinal drugs are distributed: our doctors’ offices and pharmacies.

There is widespread abuse supported by our medicinal distribution system, with doctors under pressure from patients to dole out Oxycontin, Vicodin and Percocet for marginally indicated purposes. Add to that the economic demands of revenue-producing activities such as reimbursements and patient retention, and a dangerous, unethical cocktail of societal regress occurs.

This is the beginning of drug abuse in this nation for many

Heroin, which is readily available, is often introduced later in a prescription abuser’s cycle. The reason is most often an economic one. Prescription drugs cost typically $1 per milligram for a 30 to 80 milligram pill. Whereas heroin is obtained in $5 and $10 bags, and in pure forms can deliver incredible highs for far less money. The pure form also enables many to snort it instead of injecting it, creating a false sense of security since this method of ingestion is considered “cleaner.”

For many, “Chasing the Dragon,” the phrase used to describe the craving of heroin addicts seeking to repeat their incredible highs, is based on the transition from prescription drugs to heroin as a necessity to sustain their habits in more affordable terms. .

Public policy directed toward providing more regulation and, inevitably, greater consequences for caregivers who too liberally dispense addictive prescription drugs is essential. We can do everything possible in our families, schools and drug intervention centers to help those afflicted, but if we do not curb the abuse in our medicinal distribution system the problem will continue to spiral to crisis proportions.

Joseph D’Amore