Substance Abuse Treatment Centers used
to focus on major eastern cities such as Baltimore, New York and Boston when it came to helping curb the heroin problem in the United States. However, drug rehabs are going west to help a new wave of heroin addicts cropping up in cities such as Denver.
Drug rehabs need look no further than Tom Gorman,
director of the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program, to find out how bad the heroin problem has become in Denver. Gorman says the heroin being used in Denver is the same as the heroin being filtered into other major western cities. It comes from Mexican drug cartels that sell a lethal form of the drug called "black tar."
Gorman states, It's out there. It is increasing in our area.
Heroin hasn't reached the level of other drugs yet, but pharmaceutical opiate abuse is skyrocketing. Those drugs are more expensive than heroin, and that moves people to go from opiates to heroin. It's the same kind of high, but cheaper." The problem for addicts, according to substance abuse treatment center doctors, is that this cheap heroin is far more dangerous than prescription opioids. The cartels cut their heroin with all types of deadly poisons. A user who buys heroin off the streets of Denver never knows what he or she is getting. It's not like a manufactured pill that remains consistent no matter where or how it is purchased.
This move from synthetic opioids to heroin
is a trend that has drug rehabs concerned. Recently, pain pill manufacturers have made it more difficult to abuse prescription drugs by making more time released capsules with special coatings that are hard to abuse. Also, many pain management clinics across the United States are being forced to shut their doors. These closings have driven up the street price of prescription pain pills. Substance Abuse Treatment Centers and law enforcement agencies expect the trend for drug addicts to move from prescription opioids to heroin will only increase, due to the cheap price of Mexican black tar.
It's not difficult for young people in Denver
to find heroin, either. A recent report by Rick Sallinger, of CBS News Channel 4, revealed the homeless sell plenty of the drug. He went undercover and approached random homeless people looking for black tar heroin, and repeatedly found what he was supposedly looking for. Mayor Michael Hancock wants to sign an ordinance banning urban camping to prevent panhandlers from their secret drug dealings. He's getting a lot of resistance, however, from local agencies who want to protect the rights of the homeless. It's a sticky situation for the mayor.
Mayor Hancock knows full well that the most
abused drugs in Denver remain alcohol and marijuana. However, heroin's climb in popularity does not seem to be declining. In 2010 heroin overdoses ranked third behind marijuana and cocaine for emergency room visits. In 2011, about 18 percent of all Denver residents who were admitted to substance abuse treatment centers were opiate addicts, according to the Colorado Health Foundation. Heroin and opiates are the third leading cause of death for alcohol or drug related fatalities in Denver.
Statistics from drug rehabs in Colorado also reflect heroin's popularity.. Marc Condoljani, associate director of community intervention programs at the Colorado division of behavioral health said, "We had 1,676 heroin admissions in 2003, and then the numbers dipped for a few years, but then they went up again. In 2010, we had 1,755 treatment admissions for heroin. In the other-opiates category, we had 541 people admitted for treatment in 2003, and in 2010, there were 1,715. That's over a threefold increase. The alarming part, to me, is that people who are dependent on those prescription usually look for alternatives, and that means heroin."