- Associated Press - Sunday, January 4, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Arkansas law enforcement authorities are expressing concern about the growing heroin use in the state.

The re-emergence of the highly addictive drug is being blamed on easy access for many years to overprescribed pain-treatment opiates, such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.

U.S. Attorney Chris Thyer of Little Rock said more than half of all abusers of heroin say their addiction started after they began using prescription drugs they found in home medicine cabinets, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Sunday (https://bit.ly/14n6mjT ).

“From my perspective, we have a serious heroin problem that is growing to become epidemic,” Thyer said. “Arkansas is lagging behind other parts of the country where it has already reached epidemic proportions, but we are rapidly getting there.”

A crackdown to stem the past decade’s steady increase of prescription opiate abuse has made the drugs harder to get and consequently more expensive to buy on the street. That, Thyer said, has prompted many desperate addicts to turn instead to heroin, which targets the same brain receptors and is considerably cheaper.

Attorney David Cannon of Little Rock, who regularly represents people charged with drug crimes, said his clients tell him they can buy a dose of heroin for $25 to $50, while a single hydrocodone without a prescription costs them $40 to $60, and a single oxycodone between $60 and $100.

“It ends up getting expensive real quick, depending on a person’s habits,” Cannon said.

Heroin is becoming easier to find, too, as Mexican drug cartels, long experienced at smuggling illegal substances into the country, have “stepped right in to fill the void and are now supplying heroin,” Thyer said.

“The single biggest drug problem in Arkansas is still methamphetamine,” Thyer said. “But when you get to pockets in Arkansas, that’s not true. If you took the heroin problem and added it to the prescription-drug problem, it probably is bigger than meth.”

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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