Heroin problem rises nationally, locally

Lydia Scott and Lydia Scott

Accounts of rising heroin use have been prevalent in the news nationwide since the suspected use of heroin in the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Bowling Green is no exception to the trend.

Heroin related crime and heroin use has risen during the past few years across the United States, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration’s website.

University Professor Harold Rosenberg, a psychologist who specializes in drug rehabilitation, believes this phenomenon is occurring in the city. He said he has heard support of the rise from local law enforcement, the probation department and news reports.

“There has been an increase in the number of people with heroin problems in Wood County,” he said. “I don’t know about the last 10 years, but definitely in the last three to four years.”

Maj. Tony Hetrick, deputy chief of the Bowling Green Police Division, has watched heroin blossom into a problem during the past five years after the government made prescription medicine difficult to acquire.

“Prices went up for [prescription drugs] and people then turned to the cheap substitute, another opiate, which is heroin,” he said.

Rosenberg said heroin is getting cheaper and is being smuggled into the country at a faster rate than before, leading to an increase in the number of users.

“Supply goes up; the price tends to go down,” he said.

This would give more people in the community access to heroin.

After someone is addicted to heroin, it can be a challenge to quit the drug.

According to Psychology Today in 2012, relapse rates, defined as moderate to mild slip-ups in drug use, were estimated between 70 to 90 percent.

“Within three to six months after people get out of detox or treatment, anywhere from two-thirds to three-fourths of them have had one slip-up or lapse of going back or using,” Rosenberg said.

Besides having a relapse, another danger of heroin use is its addictive and fast-acting nature, according a report by the DEA.

Heroin can be fatal if one overdoses, and not knowing the purity of the drug, it is especially dangerous, Hetrick said.

Heroin can be hazardous to the community in more than one way.

There has been a “marked increase in shoplifting” and “robberies and crimes of violence” have gone up in relation to the rise in heroin, Hetrick said.

There are steps being taken by the Bowling Green Police Department to prevent the increase in drug use.

Drug Abuse Resistance Education or D.A.R.E. is currently in place in Bowling Green’s school district. The program is used to help students learn to say no to peer pressure regarding drugs and alcohol, according to the police division’s website.

Robin Short, a D.A.R.E. representative from the police division, visits schools around the district, instilling good decision-making and the skills needed to withstand peer pressure, she said.

“I have not really had a parent say they didn’t want their kid to participate,” she said of the D.A.R.E. program.

For D.A.R.E., the aim is to educate people while they’re young.

“We work from the ground up,” Hetrick said, referring to D.A.R.E.

A lot of prevention is probation-based, and if the person is caught with heroin, they go to court and may receive therapy to curb their addiction, he said.

Police are taking steps to prevent drug use beginning at middle school age, mainly fifth and sixth graders, according to the website.

Short said she has not seen heroin in any of the schools she has been in, except for a suspected occurrence that was never proven.

“We are making an effort to prevent,” Short said.