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Increased California heroin use gets attention

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POSTED April 6, 2014 8:05 p.m.

SACRAMENTO  (AP) — Some states, including California, 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 California:

THE PROBLEM: “It is certainly something that the cops on the streets are talking about. It’s definitely one of the top four drugs being smuggled into California.” — California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

THE NUMBERS: California heroin deaths by year, from the California Department of Public Health: 2006: 268; 2007: 284

2008: 317; 2009: 347; and 2010: 318. For 2010, the most recent year available, only 2,568 of the 3,967 total drug poisoning deaths have specific drugs identified and many deaths have multiple drugs identified.

Heroin ranked sixth in causing drug-related deaths from 2006-2010, according to the California Department of Public Health: Opioid Pharmaceuticals: 5,548; Amphetamines: 2,509; Sedatives: 2,262; Methadone: 1,771; Cocaine: 1,606; Heroin: 1,534
\RAMIFICATIONS: California has seen an increase in heroin addicts seeking treatment since fiscal year 2006-2007, as a percentage of addicts seeking treatment for all drugs, including alcohol, according to the California Department of Health Care Services: 2007-08: 15.8; 2008-09: 15.9; 2009-10: 16.6; 2010-11: 17.3; 2011-12: 17.9;  and 2012-13: 19.1

Despite the recent increase, heroin has generally been overshadowed by methamphetamine over the last 20 years. In business year 1993-94, California had 86,646 heroin admissions, or 42 percent of all admissions. The same year methamphetamine abuse represented 10 percent of admissions. By 2011-2012, heroin admissions had dropped to a 20-year low of 30,406 before increasing to 33,401 admissions in 2012-13, accounting for 19.1 percent of all admissions. By contrast, methamphetamine accounted for 27.5 percent of admissions in 2012-2013.

SOLUTIONS:

The California Department of Health Care Services this year created a workgroup to coordinate policies and programs to combat abuse of prescription opiates, and misuse and overdoses by those receiving benefits through Medicaid, known in California as Medi-Cal. Spokeswoman Carol Sloan said the group is researching a possible three-point plan:

Promote the use of naloxone hydrochloride, which can reverse heroin overdoses.

Share prescription drug data with the state Department of Justice.

Encourage precautions in using, storing, and disposing of prescription opioids.

Among related pending legislation:

AB1535, by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, permits trained pharmacists to furnish naloxone.

uSB973, by Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-Covina, removes the currently required seven-day waiting period between detoxification treatments in narcotic treatment programs.

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