Every decade or so, a new drug hits the streets. Usually a drug that’s less expensive than what is currently available, easier to use and what may be considered a little more “socially acceptable”.
Alcohol was the drug of choice for many young people in the 50s. Soon came marijuana, LSD and even heroin in the 60s and 70s. Back then heroin had to be injected, was expensive and only those considered hard-core junkies seemed to take part in it.
The 80s brought cocaine and from there ecstasy. Of course, alcohol and marijuana have always been around.
At the turn of the century methamphetamines and prescription drugs became the fad.
Meth was cheap and prescription drugs were just lying around homes of kids and young adults who wanted to get high.
“It’s an attraction for the younger generation who see parents who are used to taking oral medication. It’s a very common thing,” Mark Richardson from the Snohomish County Drug Task Force explained. “If you’ve got a drug that you’re going to ingest wouldn’t it be nice to have it approved by the FDA?”
Soon the oxycontin, also known by names such as percocet, endocet, roxicet and more, was being not only ingested but also smoked.
When Purdue Pharmaceutical became aware of this problem, they made their tablets non-smokeable.
Soon, heroin hit center stage. Both heroin and oxycontin are opiates. Oxycontin is actually a synthetic of opiate, Richardson explained.
“Heroin seems to be the drug of choice right now,” Lake Stevens Police Chief Randy Celori said. “We’ve been seeing it a lot more. However, we haven’t seen any cases from the high school.”
Richardson has seen the same thing in his work on the Drug Task Force. Users will usually start out smoking heroin and soon turn to injecting it.
“Heroin users, even if they start out smoking, will eventually go to a needle. Everything we see says that is true,” Richardson said. “When smoking heroin there is a saturation point where you become so lethargic you don’t smoke anymore. When you shoot it into your bloodstream you can’t stop it from doing what it is going to do. You can’t pull it back out if you inject too much. That’s what we’re re concerned about right now.”
It’s interesting to note that the cost of heroin has gone down considerably. According to Richardson, the cost of heroin used to be around $72 a gram. It now sells for closer to $15 a gram. Because the heroin is “being stepped on” in other words, being cut into a smokeable, it has caused the price to go down.
Smoking heroin is also more socially acceptable than injecting it.
“You don’t have the stigma of shooting it,” Richardson said. “They don’t have the stigma of being a needle junkie.”
However, in most heroin users, that soon changes as they move on to shooting the drug.
A main concern for law enforcement and public health in general are the diseases that are associated with intravenous drug use.
“AIDS, needles being exchanged, hepatitis C -- we’re back to where we were before,” Richardson said. “They are going to become a concern.”
The good news is that of the 14 death investigations in Lake Stevens so far this year, only four have been drug-related, two of those considered suicides and drug use in down in our schools. Of the nine heroin cases investigated by the Lake Stevens Police Department, none involved juveniles.
While this is comforting to the community as a whole, there are still many families suffering from the effects of drug abuse.
Shea and her family continue to struggle with sobriety as she works her way through rehab. Her mother Rhonda wrote the following poem only hours before Shea came home to go to rehab.