The U.S. is in the grips of one of the worst heroin epidemics in its history, declares the Cincinnati Enquirer in the first of a five-part series. The newspaper attributes the problem partly to “a flood of cheap doses of the drug, which can be had for as little as $4 apiece, ordered on dark corners of the Web and delivered to front doors in the suburbs. In some regions, such as the Great Lakes states, heroin is deemed ‘highly available’ by local police in more than three times the number of communities as it was just seven years ago.” Heroin’s resurgence has sparked a flurry of action from governors’ mansions and statehouses across New England and the Midwest to small-town police stations from Northern Kentucky to Wisconsin.
It is a full-blown health crisis that cuts across geographic, social, racial and economic boundaries. “It’s really on the top of everyone’s radar from a public health perspective,” said Thomas MacLellan, director of homeland security and public safety for the National Governors Association. Government studies estimate the number of heroin users is around 330,000 and growing, up about 75 percent from five years ago and up almost three times compared with the decade low of 119,000 in 2003. It’s a level of regular usage not seen since heroin’s peak in the mid-1970s, when government studies estimated 550,000 regular users. Although heroin represents a small fraction of the nearly 24 million Americans who misuse drugs overall, heroin use is growing faster than all others. Heroin and related opioid pain pills have killed more than 125,000 in the U.S. in the past 10 years.