Heroin use, treatment on rise in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Some states, including Indiana, are reporting a rise in heroin use as many addicts shift from more costly and harder-to-get prescription opiates to this cheaper alternative. A look at what’s happening in Indiana:

THE PROBLEM:

The Drug Enforcement Administration office in Indianapolis said it has seen a marked increase in heroin investigations in larger Indiana cities.

“One of the root causes of the increase is the significant abuse and diversion of prescription painkillers like hydrocodone and oxycodone in Indiana,” DEA Special Agent Dennis Wichern said.

People turn to heroin once they’re addicted because it’s less expensive and has similar effects, he said.

Wichern said heroin also is getting less expensive because a reduction in wholesale costs by Mexican drug traffickers has made it cheaper all the way to the street.

THE NUMBERS:

Among people seeking treatment for addictive behavior, the percentage of those seeking help for heroin addiction has risen significantly, according both to the state health department and the Indiana University Center for Health Policy.

The demographics of heroin users in Indiana have shifted over the past decade.

Heroin use by young people in the state has increased sharply over a decade’s time and in many cases is higher than national levels, data show.

In the past, most heroin use as reported by those seeking treatment was by people 45 and older, but the center said the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds who reported heroin use more than quadrupled in the 10 years from 2001 to 2010.

And according to 2012 results from the Indiana College Substance Abuse Survey, Indiana college students reported they had used heroin within the last year at four times the national rate, 0.4 percent compared with 0.1 percent.

Heroin use by race has also shifted dramatically over the past 10 years. Before 2005, blacks had the highest rates of use. Since 2008, heroin use by whites has risen and taken over the top spot, according to the health department.

RAMIFICATIONS AND SOLUTIONS:

In Indiana, the DEA has created two specialized units solely to address the heroin problem.

Two bills were passed this legislative session that were intended to have some impact on heroin and other drug use. One dealt with drug treatment and its reporting, and the other would reorganize the state mental health agency into a mental health and addiction agency and add two addiction psychiatrists.

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