Jordan Perry, Contributing Writer
Images of the elderly probably do not come to mind when you think of heroin. But, picture this: A 60-year-old man that has heavily relied on prescribed Oxycotin for pain relief is denied such a prescription at his next pharmacy visit. In desperation, he finds access to another opiate that is just as effective and cheaper–heroin. This is one of the new faces of a heroin addict.
With a new prescription-monitoring program in effect, many are being turned away at the counter for prescription drugs. Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing (iStop) is responsible for assisting practitioners in identifying patients that are abusing or using controlled substances non-medically. This public health law was made effective in 2013 in attempts to lower the controlled substance overdoses that have recently sky rocketed. As a result of this new law however, a heroin epidemic has emerged once again.
The total number of admissions for heroin and prescription opiate abuse treatment for New York State in 2013 was 89,269, compared to 63,793 admissions in 2004. Heroin has had its rebirth, and it’s worse than before.
“It’s as bad as we [the other directors from neighboring towns] have ever seen,” says Julie Dostal, Oneonta’s Executive Director of the Leatherstocking Education on Alcoholism/Addictions Foundation (LEAF).
With several major heroin trafficking busts in Oneonta in recent years, including one this past October that uncovered $15,000 worth of heroin, Oneonta’s name has ties to the drug. Dostal explains that the reason Oneonta seems to be at the heart of the issue is because it is directly off of Interstate 88, which makes it considerably easy for traffickers from New York City to follow Interstate 81 to 88. Dostal noted other leading drug prevention directors in surrounding counties confirm that their towns have been just as infiltrated by the drug as Otsego county.
Not only is this drug widespread amongst its user demographic–which ranges from college students to elderly users–but it is also more dangerous than before. “Diesel,” the street name for a new strain of heroin, is associated with a large number of fatal overdoses in New York, as well as other places in the United States. According to Dostal, it is now being sold under a different name and packaged differently so that customers do not turn away from the product at the sight or sound of its name.
With such a crisis, Governor Cuomo has launched his campaign, “Combat Heroin.” This campaign aims to educate residents of New York about the risks, signs of addiction and resources for heroin users. Colleges, including SUNY Oneonta, are also now required to educate new incoming students on heroin at orientation by their Alcohol and Other Drugs Director.
Resources are available for students with an addiction or that are concerned for a friend with an addiction at the Health Center. LEAF is another resource in town, located on Main Street, that takes confidential phone calls about issues surrounding addiction, connects addicts to recovering addicts with their new program “Dirty is the New Clean” and various other prevention means.