Thursday, 20 March 2014

Addiction treatment difficult, but possible

Jackson's heroin problem persists, fuelled by prescription drug abuse; addiction treatment difficult, but possible

JACKSON, MI – Almost every person with an addiction to heroin knows someone whose use has killed them. Most have overdosed or been near death, but this often isn’t enough to convince them to stop or seek help, those who work in substance abuse treatment report. “It is amazing. It is incredible, the power of opiates. It controls you. You do not control it,” said Mike Hirst, who lost his son to heroin in 2010 and now does much heroin-related education and community outreach. He and others have gained some ground, but the problem persists in Jackson and elsewhere, affecting people across a broad spectrum of classes and circumstances. “It’s not going away,” Michigan State Police Detective Lt. Dave Cook said of the drug. “It’s cheap, and it’s the best fix out there.” About twice a week, officers or informants working for the Jackson Narcotics Enforcement Team buy heroin in Jackson County, said Cook, who heads the team. Since 2009, they have seized 3,047 grams of heroin in the county. The number increased every year from 2009 to 2011, when it took a big jump because of a large bust. Last year, the narcotics team removed less heroin from the streets than any of the previous three years, but Cook said this does not mean the drug is no longer an issue. Occasionally, officers arrest a significant trafficker, but the take-down never slows the supply for long, he said. “The sad truth is we are not going to put them out of business. As long as there is a need, these guys are going to be slinging heroin because there is a lot of money to be made in it,” Cook said. He said the drug made a resurgence from 2000 to 2005, and its use and prevalence has not slowed. “I’d say it picked up.” There were about twice the number of people in the United States who depended on or abused heroin in 2012 than there were in 2002, according to the most recent statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the addiction is difficult to treat. Jackson County Recovery Court, which aims to help felony offenders with drug or alcohol dependencies, has the least success with those who are struggling with opiate addictions. They require more intensive treatment the court does not always have the resources to provide. The program has had some success with users who are more mature, who have more to lose, said Newell Turpel, court recovery coach. “Young people are our hardest target population.” Most with addictions to heroin are in their 20s, recovery court officials say, and the court now has some federal grant money designated for a pilot program to increase the help it offers opiate users. Usually, their troubles begin with prescription drugs, such as Vicodin or Oxycontin, a synthetic version of heroin. They had an injury or a dental procedure and a doctor wrote them a prescription, or they started taking pills to get high. People become hooked on the pills and gravitate to heroin, which is less expensive. It cost about $20 for a “bindle,” a tenth of a gram, which amounts to about one usage, Cook said. Until communities have a handle on the prescription drug problem, the heroin problem will persist, said Hirst, who speaks at schools and, with his family, started a nonprofit foundation, Andy’s Angels, in honor of his son. “Everybody has access to prescription drugs anymore.” Deaths result. From 1999 to 2012, the latest included year, there were 2,033 heroin-related deaths in Michigan, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health. The number from 2010 to 2012 was 728, up from the 271 reported from 1999 to 2002. In Jackson County, there have been five such deaths from 1999 to 2012, the agency reports, but local information suggests there have been far more. Hirst knows of as many as four heroin deaths in the last three months. Jessica Neeley, a 27-year-old recovering from a heroin addiction, went to a memorial just last week. “There are people dying every single day that aren’t famous,” she said during a recent conversation about actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who died of a heroin overdose in February. Neeley would rather people hear the success stories. Some recover from their addiction, but it takes motivation and work. “They have to do it on their own, and they have to really want to do it on their own,” Hirst said. “They have to want to get better Addiction treatment possible

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