Breaking Bad may have brought awareness to our country’s serious problem with crystal meth – especially in certain areas – but now another drug is coming back into vogue: heroin.
According to the CDC, heroin use has skyrocketed across the nation and North Carolina is one of the states hit by the new epidemic. Unlike many past spikes in drug use, rates of addiction are climbing among both males and females, across all income levels, and across many different age demographics.
In the past, rates of addiction and overdose were highest among males in urban areas. In recent years, however, there has been an alarming rise in heroin abuse among other demographics. Between 2011 and 2013, heroin use increased nationwide 100% among females, roughly 70% among middle and upper class, and 109% among the 18-25 year old demographic.
North Carolina’s Heroin Problem
In North Carolina, heroin deaths increased from 38 in 2010 to 183 in 2013—a 480% rise. Some experts believe the recent spike in heroin abuse is due to the fact that opioid prescription drugs (like Oxycontin and Vicodin) have become harder to obtain and more expensive. Heroin is often cheaper and easier to purchase on the street.
Law enforcement has taken special notice of the epidemic. In an interview with WRAL, Lt. Dennis Wooten, from the Nash County Sheriff’s Office, discussed how heroin arrests have changed in recent years. He noted the unsettling number of high school students busted with heroin. “We’re arresting a lot of people who are 18, 19, 20, 21 years old who are supporting their own addiction by selling heroin,” said Lt. Wooten. “We’ve seen a lot of brown powder heroin, and our numbers have grown astronomically over the last four years.”
Being arrested for possession is a serious crime. Heroin possession is a Class I felony in North Carolina, with potential penalties of six to 12 months in prison in addition to fines and a potential loss of license.
In a more recent interview with WNCN, Gina Bussey, a Substance Abuse Clinician at North Carolina Recovery Support Services, related her experience counseling addicts from all walks of life—noting an unprecedented rise among high-school and college age students. “It’s tough to have to be the one to explain to the parents of these students that they have been injecting heroin,” said Bussey. “And the parents are stunned because there’s this belief that that’s a low socioeconomic urban problem, but it’s not.”
Officials encourage the use of naloxone kits—also called Overdose Rescue Kits. Naloxone stops suppression of the central nervous system and respiratory system. This suppression is the fatal process that occurs during a heroin overdose.
In 2013, North Carolina passed legislation that increased the usage of Naloxone, equipping law enforcement officials and first responders with the life-saving kits. Since use of Naloxone became more prevalent, 600 North Carolinians have been saved from heroin overdoses, according to the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition.
Heroin may be a dangerous epidemic, but charging users and addicts with fines and incarcerating them with violent criminals will do nothing to stop the widespread abuse or help them to escape their problem. If you have been charged with a heroin related crime, it is vital that you consult with a tenacious legal firm that will fight for your rights and do everything in their power to get you the help that you need.
About the Author
Attorney Mike Schlosser represents victims of personal injury, those charged with a crime, as well as those facing traffic charges. A former Guilford County, North Carolina District Attorney, Schlosser has been in private practice at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett since 1983 and has been a member of the North Carolina State Bar since 1973.