- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 28, 2015

An alarming increase in the amount of heroin trafficked into the United States has government officials and lawmakers looking for ways to reduce the influx of the drugs and the number of fatal overdoses they say are akin to “a public health care crisis.”

Federal agents have noticed that drug-runners who work for or with drug cartels in Mexico are responsible for half of the U.S. street supply, said John Riley, acting deputy administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The drug is being smoked or snorted by young people who see the substance as “recreational” — a party trend that is creating younger and younger addicts, Mr. Riley told members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations.

“I’ve been with DEA almost 30 years and I have to tell you, I have never seen it this bad,” he said.

Heroin seizures along the southwest border of the United States spiked 232 percent between 2008 to 2012, according to statistics provided by Rep. Judy Chu, California Democrat. In the wake of that spike, the number of heroin users have tripled, said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican.

“The DEA estimates that there are about 600,000 heroin users in the United States, which is three times the number in 2012,” Mr. Goodlatte said. “Tragically, that number is expected to rise.”

An estimated 10 million Americans who are currently addicted to prescription opioids, including such drugs as Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet, Mr. Goodlatte said. Those prescription addicts often stumble into heroin addiction simply because heroin is far cheaper than prescription drugs, he said.

“Once someone is addicted to a prescription opioid, the need to satisfy their addiction outweighs the stigma attached to heroin use,” he said. “Additionally, it is far easier to pay $10 for a dose of heroin than $80 for an oxycodone tablet.”


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