Whether it’s on the streets, in the homes or in the schools, heroin’s influence is spreading throughout the Capital District.
It’s not just the urban areas, either. Overdoses are increasingly being reported in the suburbs and rural communities, as well as across all socioeconomic boundaries. Only a couple of months ago, a Shenendehowa High School student was arrested for injecting a classmate with the drug in a locker room. And at a March 11 forum on the heroin epidemic at the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple said there was an overdose case in Westerlo – about as far removed from the urban landscape as you can get in this county.
Stemming the tide of heroin addiction isn’t going to be easy. Law enforcement will do its part by trying to get as much of the drug off the streets as possible, but it’s a slow process. How slow? The “war on drugs” that began in the 1980s is still going. Three decades of pursuing cocaine dealers, crystal meth purveyors and other sources of illegal drugs has only resulted in more crowded prisons and temporary shifts in the drug of choice.
Furthermore, pharmaceuticals, which, when prescribed by a doctor have the air of legitimacy and safety, have become the gateway to addiction. When someone gets hooked on one of those drugs, studies are showing that they then turn to heroin to continue their opiate habit.
Obviously, getting rid of prescription drugs isn’t the answer. Doctors are being more careful about writing those prescriptions these days, but the risk of addiction will always be there.
So in addition to stricter law enforcement and clamping down on prescribing opiates isn’t going to stop the spread of heroin addiction, what else can be done? One answer may be in how law enforcement treats people who overdose on the drug.