ALBANY, N.Y. – The heroin epidemic is growing across New York State, and lawmakers have introduced new legislation to combat the problem as the face of heroin has changed.
The plan unveiled by legislators to combat the growing heroin problem includes tougher penalties for dealers, more money for life-saving anti-overdose drugs and making insurance companies pay for rehabilitation.
Kristyn Harrington is a school-based clinician and assistant principal at Mount Anthony Union High School.
“No one thinks they’re going to be a heroin addict,” she said. “No one thinks someone they love will die from an overdose.”
Heroin in 2014 is purer and cheaper than the drug that made up the epidemic of the 1970s. It is also easier to get. The image of a junkie shooting heroin in an abandoned building in the big city has changed as well.
“I know doctors and lawyers and a guy who owns a car dealership; wealthy people who have a heroin problem,” Vermont State Police Lieutenant John Merrigan said.
Major Wayne Olson with the New York State Police said the face of heroin is now the middle class American.
“I don’t think you can put an age on it,” he added.
Heroin use is growing fast among young people. A Shenendehowa student injected another student with heroin while they were in school.
But most users come to heroin through prescription pain pills they may have found in their parents’ medicine cabinet.
“As prescription pills become more expensive and harder to obtain, people who are addicted to opiates will find another opiate to use which opens the door for heroin,” Harrington explained.
Whether it ends up in the hands of teens in a local high school or the business professional, heroin is coming through the Capital Region and Vermont in numbers never seen before.
One of the main routes for the drug is Route 7, and authorities have begun to call it a heroin highway.