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OnlinemotamanM
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Heroin use is up, and so are OD deaths [MN]
    #11827491 - 01/14/10 10:00 AM (14 years, 5 months ago)

Heroin use is up, and so are OD
deaths

The Hennepin and Anoka county
sheriffs said the opiate seen in the
metro area is purer and cheaper,
making it more attractive but also
deadlier.

By PAUL LEVY, Star Tribune

Last update: January 13, 2010 - 12:04 AM

Heroin use in the Twin Cities is on the rise,
and this heroin is the most potent in the
nation. It's inexpensive and can be inhaled as
well as injected. And it's never been deadlier.

"It's the purity that's driving this huge
increase in overdoses that we're seeing in the
Twin Cities," Carol Falkowski of the
Minnesota Department of Human Services
(DHS) said Tuesday. "Even experienced users
can't judge the purity of the heroin we're
seeing here."

That heroin -- some of it nearly 60 percent
pure, according to the federal Drug
Enforcement Administration (DEA) -- led to
22 fatal overdoses in the Twin Cities between
January and mid-November 2009. That's a
57 percent increase over the 14 heroin-
related fatalities for all of 2008, said
Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek at a
joint news conference Tuesday with Anoka
County Sheriff Bruce Andersohn in Andover.
The numbers are based on figures from
Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin and Ramsey
counties, the sheriffs said.

The relatively low cost of $50 for a tenth of a
gram apparently appeals to young addicts
who hardly fit the traditional profile of a
heroin user. In the past five years, most of
the heroin confiscated in the Twin Cities has
been in powder form -- heroin that can be
inhaled by "typical citizens," some of them
ages 17 to 26, the sheriffs said. Six of the
Twin Cities' heroin overdose victims in each
of the last two years were 25 years old or
younger.

"It's an alarming trend," said Andersohn. In
Anoka County alone, there have been five
heroin-related deaths in the past 14 months,
he said.

"The coroner didn't see anything like this for
years," Andersohn said. "And then, to see five
in 14 months?"

While methamphetamine abuse has declined
as new laws and general awareness make it
tougher to buy ingredients to create the drug,
heroin continues to arrive in Minnesota from
afar.

A lot of it comes from Mexico, said
Falkowski, who is with the Alcohol and Drug
Abuse Division of the DHS. Most heroin --
possibly 80 percent -- is being imported
from out of state, and much of it comes from
southern border states, the sheriffs said.

The heroin found in the Twin Cities -- up to
59.9 percent pure, according to the sheriffs
-- is more potent than what's been found in
other major metro areas, the sheriffs said.

That may help explain why heroin use is on
the rise in Minnesota while it appears to be
declining nationally, according to a report
that Falkowski's office released in June. In St.
Louis, which Falkowski says has been a
traditional trouble spot for heroin use, the
drug is 3 percent pure, according to the DEA.
In Houston and San Antonio, it's 7 percent
pure; in Seattle, 19 percent.

"The higher the opiate's purity, the greater
the likelihood of overdose death," she said.

The high purity of Mexican heroin in this area
is somewhat of a marketing ploy, she said.
When a new drug hits the market, it tends to
have a higher purity at a lower price, she
said. This was the strategy when crack
cocaine hit the market, she said. Other cities
have high purity in other types of heroin,
Falkowski said.

More widespread use

The addicts shooting up or, more recently,
snorting heroin are not just from the inner
city. Use is widespread, the sheriffs said, and
has been that way nationwide since the mid-
1990s, Falkowski said. She noted the well-
chronicled deaths of several young people
from St. Charles, Ill., who traveled to Chicago
to buy heroin and bring it back to the
suburbs.

Heroin use became more widespread in
Minnesota around 2000, Falkowski said. But
it's only recently that Twin Cities users have b
een able to buy the drug in powder form
that can be inhaled as well as injected.

"It's one thing to inject it, whether you're
injecting it in the back of a kneecap or
between toes," Stanek said. "That's often
difficult to do, but inhaling it is another
matter. What makes inhaling more deadly is
that you're no longer dealing with a
measured dose."

Stanek stressed that parents should talk to
their teenagers, saying that the teens will
actually listen. Those conversations may be
made more difficult because heroin has been
manufactured to appeal to young people in
appearance. It's now packaged in small
multi-colored balls to give it a designer look,
the sheriffs said.

But Stanek's message to young people is
plain and simple: "You may not be afraid of
going to jail, but you might be afraid of
dying."

Warning signs for parents include changes in
sleeping patterns, physical appearances and
demeanor, Stanek said.

Staff writer David Chanen contributed to this
report. Paul Levy • 612-673-4419

http://www.startribune.com/local/north/81222342.html?page=1&c=y


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