It was not unusual at first glance.
The rise or fall of heroin use in America seems to warrant an annual article. It appears to be the mandatory article that pops its ugly little head up - like a Punxsutawney Phil on drugs.
Many readers likewise tend to glance at such yearly articles, momentarily react/respond to them and then turn the pages to either the sports or entertainment sections, if nothing less serious reaches out for the reader's attention.
No, the publication of this article on heroin was not unusual...
The content was.
It was devastating.
Our neighborhood in Boise, Idaho WAS next. Our home on Stynbrook Drive WAS next.
Our son, Nate, WAS next.
What Leger writes in her USA Today piece is so penetratingly painful that those who are NOT aware of heroin's insidious grip on former legal opiate patients MUST finally face the reality of America's greatest wave of drug use yet.
It's a personally deadly combo: middle America's patients who were once provided legal prescriptions but must now use heroin, due to the high cost of prescription medicine.
It's the Main Street trail of tears about which I write in my recently book "Beautiful Nate" published by Simon and Schuster.
My bride, Susan, and I witnessed this exact transition in drug use in our son, Nate, who eventually died at age 27 due to adverse drug reactions.
If you missed the USA Today article, I have linked to it below; offering first these two key sections for your consideration and thoughtful review.
"America arrived at this moment after a decades-long increase in the number of people using, and abusing, powerful pain pills. The narcotics had become easier to obtain - some pain clinics issued prescriptions by the thousands - and many found a quick path to the black market.
To stem the abuses, authorities over the past decade began cracking down on clinics, and drug companies began creating pill formulations that made them harder to crush and snort for a quick high. Thus, opiate addicts have found it more difficult, and expensive, to get their fix. An 80 mg OxyContin can cost $60 to $100 a pill. In contrast, heroin costs about $45 to $60 for a multiple-dose supply."
The trend to heroin bore out in Mark Publicker's 24-bed detox ward at Mercy Hospital Recovery Center in Portland, where as many as half the patients are addicted to opiates. Publicker saw a startling change six to eight months ago as patients, who once favored oxycodone, reported intravenous heroin as their opiate of choice.
IV heroin is particularly dangerous because addicts may share needles, exposing themselves to blood-borne diseases such as HIV and hepatitis, and can easily overdose when injecting heroin directly into their bloodstream, Publicker said.
"As bad as oxycodone is, heroin is worse," Publicker said. "It's worse because here in Maine, it's injected. We're talking about a novice population of drug injectors who are not educated about needle use."
Most frightening, he says, is how young the users are. "We're talking 18-, 19-, 20-, 21-year-olds," he said.
One young patient who entered treatment in February started using painkillers properly prescribed after ankle surgery but became addicted within a year, Publicker said. About 18 months ago, she switched to IV heroin and shared needles with her boyfriend.
"I don't think this is an atypical story," Publicker says."