A look at heroin deaths, treatment in Montana

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HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Some states, including Montana, are reporting a rise in heroin use as many addicts shift from more costly and harder-to-get prescription opiates to this cheaper alternative. A look at what’s happening in Montana:

THE PROBLEM:

Heroin-related deaths are relatively rare in Montana, but the number of people seeking treatment for heroin or morphine addiction has risen sharply in the state since 2007. Most people seeking treatment are white adult males. But since 2010, more than 100 people ages 20 or younger identified heroin or morphine as their primary drug of choice when seeking help, according to data from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. The number of Native Americans seeking treatment who identified heroin or morphine as their primary, secondary or third drug of choice has been relatively steady since 2008.

THE NUMBERS:

Twenty people died of overdoses in which heroin was a factor between 1999 and 2012 in Montana, health department spokesman Jon Ebelt said. Of those 20 cases, 11 people had taken only heroin, while the remaining nine had additional drugs or alcohol in their systems, too.

Autopsies are performed on only 5 or 6 percent of all deaths in Montana, so those results may be an undercount, Ebelt said.

The number of people seeking treatment for heroin or morphine use jumped from 26 in 2007 to 313 in 2013. The peak year was 2012, when 335 people sought treatment. Of those, 195 identified heroin or morphine as their primary drug of choice, while the rest described heroin or morphine as secondary or tertiary drugs.

That year, 274 people seeking treatment were adults, 259 were white and 223 were male. Thirty-four were Native Americans and 49 were 20 years old or younger.

In 2014, 27 people who used heroin or morphine sought treatment through Feb. 24, according to the health department.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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