by Michael Lowrey
As the News & Observer of Raleigh reports:
A few dozen people died of heroin overdoses in North Carolina each year since 2000, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.
But in 2012, heroin deaths nearly doubled statewide, to 148, while overall deaths from all narcotics and hallucinogenic drugs ticked up only slightly. WakeMed hospitals throughout Wake County admitted 50 people for heroin overdoses in 2013, more than twice the annual average of the previous five years, said spokeswoman Kristin Kelly.
At the same time, police say the amount of heroin they’ve found in drug arrests has soared.
In Durham, police seized about 4 pounds of heroin last year, more than five times as much as in 2010, said spokeswoman Kammie Michael. In Raleigh, heroin seizures went from less than a pound in 2010 to nearly 24 pounds last year, said spokesman Jim Sughrue.
And which North Carolina county has the most heroin deaths in 2013? Yup, Mecklenburg with 14.
What’s behind the increase in heroin use? Essentially, OxyContin and the like got expensive:
“Some of these prescription medicines sell for $40 a pill,” says Robert Childs, executive director of the N.C. Harm Reduction Coalition, a statewide public health and drug policy reform organization based in Durham. “That’s on the extreme end. Most cost less. But if you can get a bag of heroin for $5 to $20 instead of paying up to $25 or $80, it’s really a simple choice to users.”