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Path From Pain Pills To Heroin Addiction Nothing New In San Diego County

Evening Edition

Aired 2/17/14 on KPBS Midday Edition.

GUESTS:

Sam Quinones, is a journalist for the Los Angeles Times who has reported extensively on heroin and prescription drug abuse. He's writing a book on the subject.

Sherrie Rubin, is on the executive committee for the San Diego County Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force and is founder of the Hope2gether Foundation. Her son Aaron overdosed on prescription pain pills a few years ago, he now is quadriplegic and requires 24-hour care.

Transcript

When a celebrity dies of a overdose, news organizations start to focus on the new rise in heroin use. But people who've been tracking opiate use and addiction say there's nothing new about it.

Addicts who abuse prescription drugs like Oxycontin have been switching to heroin for a number of years now, because heroin is cheaper and in many places, much easier to get.

Heroin, coming in from Mexico, is being marketed to higher-end buyers. While tragedies like the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman remain shocking, they are not actually surprising to those who track the epidemic of opiate abuse in the Unites States.

A report card by San Diego County's Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force found that, between 2008 to 2012, deaths from prescription drug overdoses increased in the county sharply.

But, the report also found that nearly 1 in 4 people in county-funded drug treatment programs say heroin that's their drug of choice, and heroin is consistently near the top of the list of drugs connected to overdose deaths here, according to the report.

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