07/24/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Recent Heroin Surge: A Major Threat

Heroin was never my drug -- I loved painkillers. Pills like Vicodin and OxyContin gave me a pure, clean high similar to the euphoric effects one gets from heroin, but I never had to worry that the pills I was getting came from a bad batch. Remember the big heroin scare that killed six people, including two 18 year-old girls, back in 2005? Four of the six who died also had cocaine in their system, but that barely made the news. Heroin is basically considered scary, and pills are considered safe. That's why I stuck with them. The fact that prescription painkillers were more expensive and harder to come by didn't matter to me. But as my addiction progressed and I was running low on cash, a $20 bag of heroin started to sound a lot better than bottle of $60-a-pop Oxys. Luckily I got clean before things progressed to that point, but two years ago I made a prediction to several editors that America was going to see a rise in the use of heroin over the next few years, as the DEA started to crack down harder on the diversion of painkillers. People who once thought they'd never consider going near heroin might start thinking it sounded pretty good once their pill sources dried up. If you're hooked on an opiate, and you find that same high at a much cheaper price, it becomes much easier to justify using heroin. Besides, wasn't heroin once prescribed as medicine, just like painkillers?

This was largely just a theory of mine, based on my own personal experience. However, in the past few weeks, local news reports have started coming out about a rise in heroin overdoses, and local authorities are linking them directly to the decreasing availability of painkillers and heroin's cheaper price. In Madison, Wisconsin, heroin was responsible for 77% of overdoses last year, compared to 38% in 2006. Local police blame that rise on how cheap heroin is compared to prescription painkillers. Oneonta, a small city in upstate New York, has seen a rise in heroin overdoses, as have several other cities along the east coat. The Oneonta Daily Star quotes Otsego County DA John Muehl as saying, "(Heroin) is an opiate, so it's the same fix. Heroin is much cheaper on the street than prescription drugs." Chenango County DA Joseph McBRide added in the same article, "Historically, availability usually involves the price of the drug."

One of the biggest complaints from people who study painkiller addiction is that no one caught the problem in time. By the time anyone noticed there was a major issue in America, it had already spread to epidemic proportions. Maybe this time we can catch the recent heroin surge in time to actually try and do something about it. Otherwise, I guess the '90s really are back.