Heroin use, deaths, on the rise in Silver State

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Some states, including Nevada, are reporting a rise in heroin use as many addicts shift from more costly and harder-to-get prescription opiates to this cheaper alternative.

THE PROBLEM: Drug counselors and law enforcement officers say they see a direct tie between heroin use and abuse of prescription painkillers like Oxycodone. Patients become hooked on doctor prescribed medications, then go in search of supplies on the black market when their prescriptions run out. But a single pill on the street can run as much as $80 a pop. Heroin is more prevalent on the street and cheaper — about $15 for a fix.

But officials are also seeing younger people trying heroin at an earlier age. “Ten or 12 years ago we saw no kids using heroin or opiates,” said Kevin Quint, bureau chief for the state Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Agency. “The last four or five years, the numbers have increased dramatically.”

THE NUMBERS: Statistics from the Division of Public and Behavioral Health show heroin deaths in Nevada have doubled in recent years but still make up a small percentage of total fatal drug overdoses.

Heroin was blamed for 50 deaths in 2012, up from 20 in 2010; 25 in 2009; and 33 the year before that. Overall, there were 732 deaths blamed on drug overdoses in 2012, the last year for which statistics are available.

A report released in March on risky youth behavior said 3 percent of Nevada high school students, some as young as 14, have used heroin at least once.


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