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Heroin a growing problem in Missouri, nationwide

Sunday, April 6, 2014 | 9:07 p.m. CDT

ST. LOUIS — Some states, including Missouri, are reporting a rise in heroin use as many addicts shift from more costly and harder-to-get prescription opiates to this cheaper alternative. A look at what's happening in Missouri:

THE PROBLEM:

Both deaths and addictions related to heroin are increasing across Missouri. For the past several years, a newer brand of heroin has shown up in Missouri, cheaper and more potent than heroin from years past. In some cases, the potency was so great that users died with the needle still in their arms.

The demographic of the Missouri user has changed, too. Heroin is more commonly showing up in suburbs and even rural areas of Missouri.

THE NUMBERS:

The state Department of Health and Senior Services reported 1,463 known heroin overdose deaths since 2001, with the annual total increasing drastically over the years. In 2001, state records listed 18 heroin overdose deaths. By 2011, the number reached 245. There were 207 heroin deaths in 2012 and 210 last year.

Addiction problems are also increasing. The Missouri Department of Mental Health reported that 776 people admitted for substance abuse treatment in 1993 cited heroin as the primary drug of abuse. By 2013, 5,635 people getting treatment cited heroin as the primary reason.

RAMIFICATIONS/SOLUTIONS:

Some police agencies are taking a more holistic approach to treating the problem. Rather than throwing users in jail, they are helping them seek treatment, often with the user's record expunged if they stay clean. The problem has gotten so bad in the St. Louis region police have hosted town hall meetings at high school gyms, warning students and their parents about the addictive nature of heroin and the potential for a fatal overdose.


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