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KPBS Midday Edition

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

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

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition, I am Maureen Cavanaugh. A celebrity dies of an overdose, and news organizations are to focus on the new rise and heroin use. People have been chucking opiate use and does an addiction says there's nothing you do about it, people have been switching to heroin for a number of years now because it's cheaper and easier to get. Heroin coming in from Mexico is being marketed to higher buyers. While tragedies like this death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman is shocking, it's not surprising with the current opiate epidemic. I would like to welcome my guests Sam Quinones and Sherrie Rubin, welcome to the show. Sam, you call opiate abuse a deadlier, quieter drug than we have seen, what do you mean by that? SAM QUINONES: First of all it is equipped term to say in opiate epidemic not heroin epidemic, considers really an abuse first of prescription pills and say Vicodin and Percocet is like that, leading to OxyContin and that later to heroin. I started to pleasant a reporter in the late 80s to 90s, there were two Stockton California mired in the pores of the crack epidemic and we covered most was drive-by shootings, crack houses, and that and led to a lot of outrage and other resources budgeting, devoted to a problem of symptoms, none of that has taken place with this epidemic has been going on for I would say at least ten years, and it's a very quiet thing, it's all taking place in people's bedrooms and doctors over describing pills and parents not coming out to be public about whether children are at rehab slowly to a silence.. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And you've been appointed overuse addiction to prescribed opiates, leads now to hit many cases to addiction to heroin, I want to go back to how these opiates get prescribed, I think people think about this like if you have a terribly painful disease, if you're perhaps suffering from cancer you will be prescribed to Powerful opiate, but their lesser conditions that people actually get rather powerful opiate drugs in order control of. SAM QUINONES: This is all rooted in a revolution in American medicine that took place in the related 80s and early 90s that suggested that the first 2 teaspoon destigmatize the use of opiate for dying cancer patients, and people the people that work people that were in horrible pain, the doctors would still be very wary about giving them opiates even though they were the last months of their lives and that was a movement destigmatize the use of drugs for cancer, and I was easily one battle, and it's easy to say was inhumane, same and say that again give you these trucks because you might live your delivery last few months abuse because you may get addicted, then as a pendulum thing and it's going and it didn't stop for the middle, Downswing in people and on to say the these drugs should be used for your bad back in your wisdom tooth, carpal tunnel chronic knee pain, of these things and they became prescribed very aggressively and very liberally, really without attempts to find other alternatives. This led to a rising sea level in the amount of opiates out there that country, and the country, in the country and some people are just subscribe prescribed these goals and get addicted to them, and the market these drugs as being nonaddictive for chronic pain patients, and that is not true. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Sherry, according to the task force. San Diego County one in four people in drug treatment program C does not prescription drugs, but heroin that is not the drug of choice. What path to most do most people follow from opiate addiction to heroin? SHERRIE RUBIN: For most young adults and middle-aged adults the recovery, and the parent, question I would prescription drugs and opiates, and my son in his case, he started out with Vicodin and somas and OxyContin but unfortunately he overdosed on OxyContin and some adults will mix prescription drugs with other drugs or alcohol, which meant them to a tragic ending, but when they become addicted to these pills, the maintenance to keep the high of the level they need to have to sustain withdrawals is substantial in the pills cost a dollar a milligram, and they haven't becomes very high very quickly, but the need date of the day, 40 mg, talking maybe $360 that, it's cost effective to go to heroin because that is the only option other than going into treatment. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How much cheaper is heroin? SHERRIE RUBIN: In 2008 program of heroin cost of $8200, 2012 across $50-$90 and it's not substantially cheaper and it goes along way, what does that last? Substantially longer time that one pill, MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: San Diego's order can't cross is a major point of entry of heroin coming to US commodity believe many people believe is heroin is traffic from the sizzling of Guinness and, where's heroin exit grown? SAM QUINONES: Afghanistan is 7500 miles away, heroin is a commodity, I do believe it comes from Afghanistan at all result coming from. Coming in from California and Mexico, couple of states in this, the state of studying is a smaller state of Nayarit, they read has one particular County which is near the capital. If the dentist is very selling heroin like pizza, they have come to understand that this is largely a gimmick and they understand that what kids are reluctant to go to skid row or some kind of menacing drug house, so these guys have figured out if you will simply deliver drugs to these guys, there's a huge business to be had, and the addicts will call the dispatcher does they can operate at a pizza place be the driver and front of the CVS pharmacy or simply close to where you are, they will meet and the dispatcher will call the driver and the devil will suit signaling through the town with now. Blizzard heroin, and this system has proven all but cross-country, please press the drivers of time, appointments up happening is the system relies on Mexico's contribution to the global economy just cheap labor, the restaurant here from two more drivers are up it within a week. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I know that both of you are concerned about one aspect of this, the matters getting more parents to speak out publicly to move past the shame and isolation of heroin addiction in the family, one touch about that, you've obviously been talking up the overdoses been happening to your son, that happened your sentimental address of this to find the parents willing to come out and talk about this or is there to achieve involved? SHERRIE RUBIN: Unfortunately there's a lot of shame involved in sometimes parents put a lot of guilt on themselves for the children's choices, and is difficult for parents to do to come out and speak and acknowledge that if one of the things that my foundation is working on to shatter the shame of addictions belly the person being treatment which seek treatment and the family can understand that it's a choice at one time for this young adult, or the person that care about use the substance, but in a short time, it was no longer a choice, it was the disease, and so until we can shatter that, that stigma of shame, the only believe I can do that is through education and for parents to speak out even other they are grieving to speak out about this epidemic and talk about it and it's difficult for them in the last three months here in San Diego I have counseled to parents for their children to go to treatment for heroin, and three young adults and that is under twenty-six, have died from heroin overdoses. Prescription drugs and opiates, others estimate of the news channels are doing an update, because of Philip Senior Hoffman's death, they wanted a parent about speak at reach out to over a dozen and they just can't. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The focus on celebrity deaths from heroin overdose may indeed provide a platform for people to come more open about this. SAM QUINONES: Too often in our society we use celebrities of the pushing point to get everybody talking about something, the like in this very much to the crack epidemic, is far more similar in some ways to the AIDS epidemic? To be really want to talk about it newspapers were very recollect reluctant to say someone to die today of eight, was not until Ron Hudson died and Magic Johnson said he had the virus, and you put public faces to the Senate from down a lot of the stigma, unfortunate of the society that we live in, but I will say because there is not that bad naturally provoked outrage that is caused by violence, we don't have any other way of calling attention to it and getting people involved, but I do think that as long as parents remain silent in the bedroom with their arms around a photo album crying, for the natural reaction to all of this, as they remain private, this whole thing continues to spread and more parents are unarmed when they attacked the problem of addiction and children, they don't know what to do and they are ignorant about it never but is ignorant about it, nobody knows what to do, and we all have to kind of step out and start talking about it and without knowledge spread the people that make the same mistakes that they didn't need to make, over and over. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Sam I am out of time, I want to thank both of you speaking with us, Sam Quinones and Sherrie Rubin, thank you both very much.

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.