An estimated 20 million people worldwide are addicted to heroin and related opiates. Their addiction, and frequent use of contaminated syringes, put them at risk of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C (VOA.com). California hospitals treated more than 11,500 patients suffering an opioid or heroin overdose in 2013, roughly one every 45 minutes (sacbee.com). Los Angeles Police Detective James Williams said cheap, black tar heroin from Mexico is hitting this area where it traditionally hasn’t. Teens usually abuse opioid painkillers they find in medicine cabinets first. Then, after they get hooked, they can’t afford it, so they buy heroin. While a single prescription pill can cost $5 to $80, black tar heroin is about $20 for a small bag. Most kids smoke it, but Det. Williams said he’s beginning to see needle tracks appear on arms again (latimes.com).
President Obama’s proposed budget includes $1.1 billion to counter opioid/heroin addiction and overdose. Three ways to address heroin addiction and overdose are: 1. Naloxone, sold under the brand name Narcan among others, is a medication used to reverse the effects of opioids, especially in overdose. When given intravenously, it works within two minutes, and when injected into a muscle, it works within five minutes (wikipedia.org). While approved by the FDA in 1971, only recently are public safety professionals trained in its use and local drugstores carry it without prescription. 2. Methadone is an opioid medication used to treat heroin addicts by reducing withdrawal symptoms without causing the “high” associated with the drug addiction (drugs.com). 3. Unfortunately many addicts relapse, so to fill the gap scientists are working on a vaccine to prevent these dangerous drugs from interacting with the user’s brain.
Multiple studies show most deaths occur one to three hours after the victim has ingested or injected drugs. The time before an overdose becomes a fatality presents a vital opportunity to intervene and seek medical help. The best way to encourage overdose witnesses to seek medical help is to exempt them from arrest, an approach known as 911 Good Samaritan Immunity Laws (drugpolicy.org).
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