Heroin, prescription abuse up in Gilbert - East Valley Tribune: Public Safety

Heroin, prescription abuse up in Gilbert

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Posted: Sunday, December 9, 2012 11:51 am

While use of methamphetamine is down in Gilbert, heroin and prescription drugs are on the uptick, according to the Gilbert Police Department.

“Meth use is down, meth labs are virtually non-existent,” said Lt. Mike Angstead in a presentation to Gilbert Town Council this fall. “Nearly all the meth is coming up from Mexico.”

Factors in the methamphetamine decrease can be traced to a couple of reasons, he said.

“It’s down because teens see how bad it is,” Angstead said. “The Arizona Meth Project has done a great job at showing the effects of the drug.”

The other reason has to do with the restrictive measures on amphetamine medications, such as Sudafed, he said. The medications have been placed behind the counter and there are limits on the amount people can buy.

However, heroin is replacing meth, Angstead said.

“You don’t see the physical effects as quickly,” he said.

Sgt. Jesse Sanger, a police department spokesman who spent the last 10 years serving in the narcotics unit, said, “Meth is super addictive, but noting is as addictive as heroin.”

Many users start out using prescription drugs, Sanger said. But getting prescription drugs has become more and more difficult, so addicts turn to other, more readily available drugs.

Oxycontin, a time-released prescription pain reliever, can cost up to $40 on the street, while heroin is much cheaper, he said.

The majority of users are between 15 and 24 years old, Sanger said.

“I’ve seen them as young as 13,” Sanger said. “These are the people that are dying and they have their whole lives ahead of them.”

“I’ve asked them: Why would you try it?” Sanger recalled. “They’d say they tried it once and ‘the next day I cleaned out my bank account. And the day after I’ve cleaned out my parent’s bank account.’”

A recreational user who smokes heroin, usually spends about $5 to 20 a day on their heroin habit, Sanger said.

But when they build up a tolerance and smoking isn’t enough, they turn to injecting it, Sanger said. And that habit can cost from $20 to $40 each day.

Meth can be more psychologically addictive, but heroin is physiologically as well as psychologically addictive, Sanger said.

And while meth users will crave the next high, even the first-time user of heroin can have withdrawal symptoms, he said.

Withdrawal from the drug is horrible, Sanger said.

“It’s like the worst flu you’ve ever had,” he said.

Often, heroin users suffer from withdrawal symptoms like vomiting, nausea, cold sweats, chills, anxiety, depression, fever, involuntary twitches and insomnia, he said.

“We have to have it or we get sick,” Angstead quoted heroin users in his presentation to Gilbert Town Council. “There are people who literally use heroin every day just to get out of bed.”

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