THE NEEDLE AND THE SPOON, March 2014
States embracing efforts to combat rise in heroin deaths
For years, America’s “war on drugs” has inspired police and lawmakers to take a very tough minded, arrest-and-incarcerate approach to dealing with illicit drug use. But an alarming increase in heroin overdose deaths nationwide has a growing number of states turning away from solely punitive measures in favor of so-called “harm reduction” laws that instead prioritize saving an overdose victim’s life.
Although there are far fewer heroin users than users of drugs like marijuana or even cocaine, their numbers have risen dramatically over the last decade. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), part of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, the number of people who use heroin has almost doubled since 2007, as has the number of people who are addicted to the drug. Much of that spike has been driven by young adults, whose use has also come close to doubling in that time. Overall, SAMHSA says approximately 669,000 people — 366,000 adults over age 25, 272,000 aged 18 to 25 and 31,000 kids under the age of 18 — used heroin at least once in 2012. (click to continue reading)