New England has the nation’s worst heroin problem, and drug testing in the schools might help, federal drug czar John Walters told the region’s governors yesterday. The Hartford Courant reports that Walters said testing “has to be supported in local communities. Unfortunately, communities usually make the decision after more than one tragic death.”
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney called the anti-drug summit held in Boston’s Faneuil Hall unprecedented. Heroin use in New England is three times the national average.
Karen Tandy, administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said, “It is big business. You might as well be sitting at the border of Colombia in this New England region.” She said cocaine dealers had created a growing market for heroin by giving out free samples with sales of cocaine and crack. In Boston, one-dose bags of heroin can be purchased for as little as $4; in Connecticut the price is about $10 per bag.
In Connecticut, heroin use has been rising over the past decade, and overdoses along with it. In 1997, heroin caused 15 deaths, compared with 107 in 2001.
Tandy and Walters said the heroin on the streets today is purer than ever, and is frequently inhaled rather than injected, which is attracting teenagers to use it as a recreational drug.
Walters said the problem must be treated as a public health issue. Under Supreme Court doctrine, drug testing in schools must be confidential and used only as a way to place students in treatment.
The federal and state leaders agreed that more federal money is needed. “We’re going to debate whether to send $87 billion to rebuild Iraq, but we’re debating nickels and dimes for treating millions of Americans who are dying [of drug use] every day,” Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland said. “We’ve got to put this on the front burner.”