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Heroin Epidemic Overtakes Mid-Michigan

Heroin faded from the Mid-Michigan scene by the late 1990s, but is making a roaring comeback.  It is also taking young lives as it sweeps through areas such as Mason, Okemos, Dewitt, and Vermontville.  No area, whether suburb, city or rural township has been untouched by the reemerging epidemic.  In 2010, five people died from heroin overdose and by 2011, sixteen additional people died.  By mid-October this year, thirteen people had already died from heroin overdose, and many of those people were young, some still in high school.  The problem is largely attributed to another addiction–prescription drug abuse.

Oxycontin Seen as Gateway to Heroin Use

Prescription painkillers, like Oxycontin, are clearly a problem when it comes to addiction.  However, they are also difficult to get and can be very expensive, which has led some former prescription painkiller users to turn to heroin as a cheaper alternative to get their high.  One hit of heroin can be as cheap as $10, and commonly comes folded up in a losing lottery ticket.  Heroin is also highly addictive, with studies showing the effect on the brain as more potent than sex.  According to federal data, the number of people who are first-time users has also risen continuously over the past decade.

Heroin Addiction is Cunning, Baffling and Powerful

The Lansing State Journal recently detailed the stories of several young people who were addicted to heroin.  Unfortunately, two of those individuals died from overdose, while the other has managed to string together 6 months of clean time.  The sole survivor, Aaron Emerson, says that he had a relapse 6 months ago because he believed he could use “just one more time”.  He says that it is incredibly difficult to stop using heroin, while it is usually a quick decision to try it the first time.  He says that the addiction made him believe that he could control his use, but he was never successful at least a thousand times over.  Thankfully, his most recent relapse lasted a relatively short amount of time and he was able to get clean again.  He is now attending Lansing Community College and he plans to earn his bachelor’s degree and become a substance abuse counselor.  Clearly, it is important to stem this growing problem from its apparent origins–the overuse of prescription painkillers.  Although  not everyone gets addicted to heroin in this way, the uptick in the number of heroin addicts in the Greater Lansing area within recent years is evidence that something is going on.

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