Heroin Epidemic Close to Home

Claire Zwack, Junior News Editor

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Since 2010, the Western New York Area has experienced a significant surge in heroin abuse and deaths related to this psychological drug. Heroin, an opioid that is synthesized from morphine, leaves users with short- or long-term neurological damage and the possibility of contracting life-threatening diseases, such as Hepatitis C and HIV, by sharing needles. Researchers believe that drug abusers often use prescription pain killers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin as platform drugs, and then branch out to using heroin, which has similar effects.

The Erie County Health Department estimates that 275 heroin overdose deaths will occur in 2015 alone, which is 128 more deaths than 2014. In order to prevent against deaths involving the use of heroin and other drugs, Erie County has taken the initiative to teach the public how to treat people suffering from heroin overdoses. Naloxone (commonly called Narcan) training sessions throughout the county have been made available to the public in an effort to raise awareness and combat the heroin epidemic. These sessions train the public how to recognize a possible heroin overdose and correctly administer naloxone, the lifesaving intranasal prescription medication. As of February 2015, the New York State Health Department tracked the number of successful administrations of Narcan and found there to be 133 statewide. Many local police departments have mandated that all officers carry Narcan, joining the statewide campaign called “Combat Heroin,” to fight this rampant heroin epidemic.

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