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Heroin’s New Reach

“Glee” star Cory Monteith’s death by overdose puts a new spotlight on the new face of heroin–white, male, thirty-something. We look at the drug and its reach.

Weapons and drugs are on display as Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, center, speaks during a news conference, Friday, Jan. 13, 2012 in the Queens borough of New York. Brown says detectives arrested a dozen suspected drug dealers running an operation mostly out of Queens. They say suburban men and woman, mostly ages 20 to 25, would dial the dealers up, get on the Long Island Expressway and buy $400 worth of heroin.(AP)

Weapons and drugs are on display as Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, center, speaks during a news conference, Friday, Jan. 13, 2012 in the Queens borough of New York. Brown says detectives arrested a dozen suspected drug dealers running an operation mostly out of Queens. They say suburban men and woman, mostly ages 20 to 25, would dial the dealers up, get on the Long Island Expressway and buy $400 worth of heroin.(AP)

A star dies of heroin and alcohol overdose and we first talk about the star.  Cory Monteith, of Glee.  Found dead Saturday at 31.  But let’s talk about the drugs.

The heroin.  It is cheaper and more widely available than ever.  Cheaper now than the prescription opiates that hooked a wave of Americans – Oxycontin and the rest.  And drawing the same crowd.

Heroin in the suburbs.  Heroin in the countryside.  Heroin in high schools.  Up 80 percent.  And a lot of guys like Cory Monteith – white, thirty-something – using.

This hour, On Point:  the new age of heroin.

- Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Tiffany Crawford, reporter for the Vancouver Sun. Author of the piece: “Star’s death spotlights spike in heroin overdoses.” (@tiffycrawford13)

Caleb Banta-Green, research Scientist at the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute at the University of Washington.

Dr. Josiah Rich, professor of medicine and epidemiology at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and attending physician at The Miriam Hospital with expertise in infectious diseases and addiction.

Highlights from the Show

Caller Raven from New York City talking about her drug habit:

TOM: Raven, let me – be very clear – you’re on the way to pick up heroin right now?

RAVEN: That is correct.

TOM: Are you high now? Are you off of it?

RAVEN: No,  I am not high right now – which is why I am going to pick up right now.

TOM: And what does it cost?

RAVEN: It costs about $150 for a gram.

TOM: And is a gram like a night of partying? Or a day? I have no idea?

RAVEN: Sir, I wouldn’t call it partying. I would call it sustaining.

TOM: Yes I am sorry. Yes you are quite right. I stand fully corrected. Is that a day? Is that two days? Is that a week? What is that for you?

RAVEN: It would be about a day – yeah. So you know the cheapness starts at the beginning and then once your in it and it’s no longer just an every now and then thing, you know the cost becomes a significant problem.

TOM: Are you still a banker, Raven?

RAVEN: Yes I am.

TOM: And your employer doesn’t know, I guess.

RAVEN: No. No they do not.

TOM: So what’s your plan? I mean – the hook is in pretty deep it sounds like?

RAVEN: Yeah it’s difficult. The plan is always to stop and once you stop then you – you’re like, “oh maybe I am okay again,” and it just completely draws you back. Your brain chemistry definitely changes. And you’re never the same again. But you know my plan is to stop. It’s not a sustainable life.

Caller Stan from Florence, South Carolina, who lost his 27-year-old son last winter to a heroin overdose:

STAN: I buried my son in December of last year – from an overdose of heroin. He died in Charleston, South Carolina. He was at a known heroin dealer’s address. We returned with the police to see where he died and of course the police didn’t do anything. We smelled marijuana when we came in and then I show them the residence where my son told me had purchased heroin from, and they said they would see what they could do. I would have thought they would have done something immediately. But the entire city is flooded with the drug, and it is cheaper than oxycodone and people that take pain pills end up taken heroin because it’s cheaper and more available.

TOM: Stan, I am so sorry for your family. That’s as bad as it gets. Did you see it coming? Did you know that your son was on heroin?

STAN: I knew he had used on and off, but I had no idea he was an addict. He had to live with us for about four weeks before he died. He seemed very functional and that he was okay. But I could have been totally blind to him maintaining a habit. You know something, maybe I just didn’t understand? I don’t know. But I missed it. And there’s a lot of it out there and it’s killing a lot of people.

Guest Dr. Josiah Rich:

The CDC just put out a notice that for something like the 15th year in a row the overdose death rates have increased. We’re experiencing a tremendous public health disaster – the likes of which we haven’t seen since the early AIDS epidemic or the AIDS epidemic itself here in the US, and also around the globe. The disease is opiates addiction. You know those receptors: they don’t care if it’s heroin or morphine or oxy.

Caller Cathy in Stoughton, Massachusetts, who began using heroin to cope with the loss of a child, but stopped herself before she became an addict:

All my life in Massachusetts – I’ve seen drug addiction, from the time I was 9. In 1995, I lost a child, and I could not stop crying. My then-husband brought home heroin. And he said to me, “Just try a line – and you’ll be okay. Just try a line.” And I did, I snorted it and within moments I felt everything was okay. And that was in September of 1995. I would do it maybe on weekends in September of ’95. And in December of ’95 I got scared. I was starting to get addicted. And one night my husband came home – he had six bags. And I refused to do it. Ultimately this broke up my marriage. We parted and I took the children.

From Tom’s Reading List

NBC News: ‘Glee’ star’s OD shows the new, fresh face of heroin — “The economics and demographics of heroin use in the United States have been changing in recent years. In fact, according to statistics from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Monteith largely fits the new profile of a heroin user: a white male in his 30s.”

USA Today: OxyContin a gateway to heroin for upper-income addicts — “Powerful prescription painkillers have become pricier and harder to use. So addicts across the USA are turning to this more volatile drug. The new twist: Heroin is no longer just an inner-city plague.”

Time: Viewpoint: How the Drug Treatment System Failed Cory Monteith — “The Vancouver coroner’s office revealed that “Glee” star Cory Monteith died of a toxic mixture of alcohol and heroin, weeks after leaving rehab for substance abuse. His death highlights the dangers of the post-rehab period, and why patients are most vulnerable just after they receive treatment.”

To find more information on medical professionals, treatment programs and to learn how you can help someone suffering from Heroin addiction, you can go to, StopOverdose.org.

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