Statistically, it’s extremely rare for people using drugs to start with heroin, he said. He agreed that the increase appears to be a consequence of the I-STOP legislation, which has otherwise been very valuable.
Many who use heroin start with a legitimate injury in which opiates, a narcotic pain reliever, are prescribed. Heroin can be the next step for people who can’t get a prescription, he said. When users find that it can take 10 illegal prescription pills, costing from $5 to $20 each, to get the same effect as a bag of heroin that could cost $20, many opt for heroin, Thalheimer said.
People can start out using it in a variety of ways, he said, including smoking or snorting. They often get their first injection from someone else, but they overcome that reluctance over time, he said.
Thalheimer said he was hopeful that the forum will lead to legislation that addresses the whole problem.
Delaware County Undersheriff Craig DuMond said he will also be in attendance. Delaware County, like other counties in the area, has struggled with the issue over the last couple of years, he said.
As the I-STOP registry curbed legal painkiller prescriptions, people who had an addiction often turned to heroin, which remained readily available, he said. As a result, crime increased as people did whatever was necessary to pay for their addiction. Current numbers on arrests were not available Tuesday.
DuMond said his agency recently has been forming a county task force.
“We are all struggling with the same issues,” he said, and a solution involves, law enforcement, treatment and education services.
“We are not going to arrest our way out of this problem,” he said. “We often treat the symptoms, and not the disease.”
DuMond added that more has to be done to educate people about what they can do, including getting treatment earlier and educating young people about the dangers of opiates.