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June 21, 2014

In Our Opinion: Legislature on right track with heroin bill

We have never really understood why anyone would want to use heroin.

After the initial “rush,” you’re going to feel drowsy, and you’re as likely as not to start vomiting. When you become an addict, you no longer control your own body. The heroin does.

Along with the physical pain and the mental anguish comes the craving, the restlessness, the diarrhea and more vomiting until you get that next fix. You will lie and cheat and steal, whatever it takes to get the poison.

Your veins collapse from the frequent injections. You risk damaging your blood vessels and heart valves. Tuberculosis and arthritis are just waiting for that next needle in your arm. Drug users who use needles account for more than 70 percent of the new hepatitis C2 cases each year, but you don’t care as long as you get that fix.

And sometimes you die, like actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman, who killed himself at age 46 with a cocktail of heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines and amphetamines.

And yet, we have seen an epidemic of heroin use. In 2013, there were 89,269 cases of heroin and prescription opiate treatment admissions in New York state. That compares with 63,793 in 2004. Nationally, about 467,000 people were reportedly abusing heroin or suffering from heroin dependence in 2012.

Someone, obviously, should do something.

This week, someone — or rather, something — did.

New York’s Legislature, rarely if ever known for bipartisanship that leads to something that benefits the state, joined with Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday on a series of bills to help combat heroin and other drugs.

The legislation includes a bill sponsored by Sen. James Seward, R-Oneonta, that would improve access to insurance coverage for substance-abuse treatment and dependency services.

Also included are provisions to provide nalozone — a heroin overdose drug — to the police and others who encounter heroin users who overdose.

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