Painkillers may be fueling heroin boom, officials say

By Alfa · Jul 8, 2008 · ·
  1. Alfa
    Painkillers may be fueling heroin boom, officials say


    Posted: July 7, 2008

    The spike in people addicted to prescription painkillers has evolved into an alarming new trend: increasing heroin use.

    The Waukesha County medical examiner reports more heroin overdose deaths so far in 2008 than in any recent year, and law enforcement officials throughout the Milwaukee area say heroin use is on the rise, an increase they attribute to people addicted to oxycodone or hydrocodone graduating to the stronger opiate.

    Waukesha County Deputy Medical Examiner Kris Klenz said that the most heroin deaths recorded in the county came in 2006, when there were three. But this year, there already had been four by June 30. Two of those victims were 19; the others were 22 and 28.

    Milwaukee County has had three heroin deaths through June 30, according to figures released from the medical examiner’s office. Those who died were 21, 24 and 40.

    Klenz cautioned that the number of heroin-related deaths is likely under-reported in some cases because heroin metabolizes quickly in the blood. The drug can appear as an overdose of morphine in some autopsies, she said. Unless a specific metabolite is found in the body, the most a medical examiner can do is rule that the death was caused by an opiate, she said.

    “We are limited by science,” Klenz said.

    Law enforcement, however, can link heroin to a death investigation by other factors, such as the presence of the drug or witnesses at the scene.

    Capt. Charles Wood, who heads the Waukesha County Metro Drug Unit, expects to see more Len Bias cases, referring to the law that enables authorities to prosecute people who supply drugs that contribute to an overdose death. The law is named after a University of Maryland basketball player who died of a drug overdose in 1986.

    Luke J. Bandkowski, 28, of Genesee was charged in April in Waukesha County Circuit Court with first-degree reckless homicide in the death of Joshua J. Carroll, 26. According to a criminal complaint, Bandkowski is accused of supplying heroin to Carroll in December. An autopsy showed that Carroll died of “opiate intoxication.”

    Wisconsin mirrors nation

    What southeast Wisconsin is experiencing now mirrors a national trend in which users of highly addictive prescription painkillers turn to heroin when the “oxy” pill is not available, Wood said.

    The difference between drug users today and those of years past is that users a decade ago may have started with marijuana, then progressed to more addictive and dangerous drugs, such as cocaine, before trying heroin — a process that may take years.

    Today, users start with prescription painkillers, then move on to heroin, which is cheaper than oxycodone or hydrocodone, Wood said.

    Oxycontin, which is a brand of oxycodone, costs about $1 per milligram, making a 40-milligram dose worth $40. Heroin, on the other hand, costs $10 to $20 per dose, according to law enforcement authorities.

    Drug overdoses overall have increased in southeast Wisconsin, doubling in Washington, Ozaukee and Waukesha counties from 2003 to 2007, according to figures released by medical examiner’s offices. The increase of heroin use has not diminished the use of marijuana and cocaine, Wood said.

    What is frightening is that “heroin is an end game,” Wood said. There are few options for someone addicted to heroin — the result is death or a difficult rehabilitation with a lifetime of potential physical problems.

    Ozaukee County was hit by a series of highly publicized heroin-related deaths, including that of 17-year-old Angela Raettig of Cedarburg in 2005, that helped lead to the arrests of Benjamin Stibbe and his mother, Teri Stibbe, and several others. . The Stibbes were cited in a federal case as being the primary conduit for delivery of heroin to users in Ozaukee County.

    Dave Spakowicz, a special agent with the state Department of Justice who heads the federally funded Milwaukee High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Heroin Initiative, said heroin use in the area dropped for a time after the Stibbes’ case, especially in Ozaukee County, but only for a short time.

    “That shook a lot of kids and led to some introspection by some of these kids like, ‘I don’t want to end up on a slab or (in prison) like Ben Stibbe.’ Unfortunately, there has been a significant increase in heroin use and heroin-related incidents in the last nine months,” Spakowicz said.

    Spakowicz said officials can only estimate the number of heroin users in the five-county area. One estimate says the number of heroin users is typically four times the number of those in methadone treatment. Methadone is a synthetic opiate used to help recovering addicts fight withdrawal symptoms.

    Spakowicz said there are as many as 1,800 people in methadone treatment programs in southeast Wisconsin, which would put the estimate at more than 7,000 heroin users.

    Ozaukee sheriff’s Detective Jeff Taylor, who is assigned to the Ozaukee County Anti-Drug Task Force, said the Stibbes have been replaced by several people.

    “As unfortunate as it sounds, I wouldn’t doubt that we wouldn’t experience an overdose (death) again. The heroin, OxyContin and prescription pills are readily available in the county and being used by a number of younger persons in the county,” Taylor said. “I don’t know why we still have kids experimenting with heroin. I think they have the same ‘it’s not going to happen to me’ attitude.”

    Share This Article


  1. fiveleggedrat
    In Swim's area, prescription pharms are very rare and very expensive, and the few adherents of them are often pushed into consuming heroin, both by lack of goods and dealers wanting people on H. Usually it is cheaper and more efficient for a lower class user to be on H rather than say, oxycodone. At the same time, the H is going to have a bigger chance of becoming addictive for the average "fresh" user.

    There are many like Swim, legitimate users who can't afford to see a doctor and don't have insurance, so they have to self medicate with what they can get on the streets.
  2. lexifer
    That's how it is where swim lives. A lot of his buds and schoolmates got hooked on ocs and roxi's and then when dope started coming around everyone stopped buying oxy's and started sniffing bags. Swim would have to guess because around here an oc 80 is extremely pricey where as one could get 4 or 5 bags for the same amount. But then when the bags dried up everyone was back to blowin' oc's again.
  3. W!SE

    sounds like an epidemic to swim. he has seen/took part of the oc/roxi phase, but has yet to see the switch to H.

    these pills are kicking everyone in the face where swim lives and he wouldn't be surprised if all the local swimmers switched to H one day. (seeing what they go through waiting for refills)

    even though swim tends to b 1step ahead and his knowledge of self is higher than the average user (these days), this is still a likely scenario indeed.
  4. Panthers007
    It may well be due, in no small part, to the HUGE increase of heroin into the USA since the US invaded Afghanistan. It sounds like business as usual to me - the government making up studies to cover their asses as they haul in the smack.
  5. W!SE
    you're right, of course! swim woulda caught that if he wasn't busy thinking of this sealed fate which seems inevitable.

    what would the govt/people in the shadows prefer? swim being an oxy consumer or heroin consumer?

  6. Panthers007
    Stolen shipments (whole truckloads) of pharmaceuticals are the domain of the Mafia. The government doesn't like messing with the mob. The government (CIA) is hauling the heroin. Guess.
  7. enquirewithin
    Where do they get these people who come out with these tired cliches?

    The Russians accuse the military in Afghanistan of being involved in the heroin trade and they should know!
  8. cra$h
    with the price of pharmers in swim's area, swim can't even think how kids could afford such an expensive high (damn swim wants to give prices....). swim knows he cant.... but since swim has experience with the pharmers anyway, he figgured he could try opium. wow. talk about more bang for your buck. turns out though, the next time the kid picked up "opium" it was some blacktar H. the switch from oxycodone to heroin is logic to the users. cheaper, better high, count swim in!
  9. W!SE
    cheaper and better, but in terms of withdrawal is it worse for swiyOU?
  10. Orchid_Suspiria
    Swim is a first hand witness/participant to this problem.A bag of heroin is cheaper than one good dose of methadone or oxycontin.It is pretty clear what any sensible addict is going to go for.
  11. mrsyavez55
    Yep swim feels all of you on this topic. swim has been on OC 80's for about 6 months. Prior to that it was fentanyl patches (which for swim sucked cause they made swim just want to sleep all day, I was on 100mcg and changed it every two days). Yet now swim's tolerance to the Oxy is plateauing and swim is reluctant to let Dr. know. I don't want to be cut off completely. Unfortunately due to an injury swim had 4 years ago swim has to be on some form of opiate or swim cannot function due to the pain. Swim has tried just PT and no meds only OTC and swim just ended up in the ER. Now SWIMS main problem is finding a reputable H dealer in my area! SWIM is so fuckin frustrated cause the only two swim has found just rip swim off each time. Swim can't find the junkie swim took with her the first time cuz then swim got good shit and it was a 20 piece and not a 20 piece that was pinched. F>>Kin A&*holes!
  12. MarkyMayhem
    One bag or pill or H ~ one dose of methadone where SWIM is at
    But it took SWIM 6 - 10 bags/pills to get off before he got on 'done
    cheaper? Maybe still, compared to $1 / mg as quoted above...
  13. Herbal Healer 019
    All the more reason Heroin along with every other drug needs to be legalized. The illegal market for drugs isn't held to the high standards purity wise as the pharmaceutical companies are which only causes overdoses (ex. some1 buys weak heroin from one spot & strong heroin from another, but ends up doing their usual dose & fatally ODs as a result of the unussualy pure heroin).

    Unless the market is regulated and held to high standards purity wise, ppl will continue to fataly overdose as a result of impure heroin that may or may not be cut with something toxic. The drug war parrallels alcohol prohibition in every way but is still vehemently enforced despite the fact that it only wastes billions of valuable tax money to no positive avail.

    Alcohol prohibition caused the rate of alcoholism to go up 300% & caused alcohol to b manufactured improperly (leading to poisonous alcohol) & wasted tax dollars to no positive avail, same concept with the drug war basicly.
  14. Woodman
    RE: Heroin

    When I get sick, it's usually something that starts in my throat and works it's way in both directions; up into my sinuses, and down into my lungs.

    Once it gets into my lungs, I can't get rid of it without antibiotics, but it kills me while it remains.

    The last time this happened, I went to and Dr. and I was in pain. I KNEW my condition did not warrant issuing pain killers, but I sure could have used some.

    I was seriously thinking of getting up on a Horse for a day or two, only because I knew that Oxy-80's were not available through my Doctor; like medical marijuana, when people NEED a substance to TREAT a particular condition.

    This whole situation has lead me to very SERIOUSLY consider hoarding a few grams of chiba in the event that I (or someone close to me) may need it.
  15. cra$h
    I'm surprised it didn't take a couple months, like back in the 90's when oxy and all were fresh that people didn't pick up on the rise in heroin use. Or it's just getting back to where it was early 90's, because people would switch to the new drugs, switching FROM heroin, but ending back to lady H.
  16. Danstar
    something I believe firmly
  17. RadioHead
    Wow, never thought of that.
  18. EyesOfTheWorld

    Heroin WDs (provided the user sticks to smoking and/or snorting) are no more severe than those from OxyContin/oxycodone, high dose hydro over a long period, hydromorphone etc, and are actually less severe than WDs from methadone and Subutex/Suboxone.
    However if the user moves on to Iv, the health risks greatly increase as does addiction potential, risk of overdose (which is of course also possible with snorting, very unlikely with smoking, as when smoking a user can tell when he/she's had enough)
To make a comment simply sign up and become a member!