Heroin use, deaths on rise in Wisconsin

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

THE PROBLEM:

Heroin use and overdose deaths have increased dramatically in Wisconsin, according to the state Department of Justice. The increases reflect the national trend of prescription opiate addicts turning to heroin. Every time an addict uses heroin, he or she could die, according to DOJ, because it’s impossible to know how strong the dose is or what’s in it.

THE NUMBERS:

According to the state Department of Health Services, the number of deaths with heroin as a contributing factor more than quintupled between 2003 and 2011, from 25 to 134.

Heroin-related emergency room visits rose from 56 in 2003 to 329 in 2011, according to DHS. Heroin-related inpatient hospitalizations increased from 46 to 170 over that span.

Heroin-related arrests more than doubled statewide between 2008 and 2012, from 267 to 673, according to local law enforcement statistics the DOJ compiled.

Wisconsin emergency medical technicians deployed Narcan, a drug that counteracts overdose effects, in the field 3,730 times in 2012, up from 2,915 times in 2010, according to a 2013 study by the Wisconsin State Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse’s prevention committee.

SOLUTIONS:

Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, who nearly lost his daughter to a heroin overdose, has introduced several bills to curb use of the drug.

The measures including allowing more EMTs to administer Narcan; providing legal immunity for anyone who reports an overdose; creating regional opiate treatment centers; allowing municipal prescription drug collection drives; requiring identification to obtain opiate prescriptions; and creating quicker sanctions for parole or probation violators in hopes of getting addicts treatment faster.

All the bills have passed both the state Assembly and Senate and are now sitting on Gov. Scott Walker’s desk. The governor supports all the proposals.

DOJ also launched a public relations campaign last fall to raise heroin awareness.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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