Local experts: heroin use is back, user has changed - WSMV Channel 4

Local experts: heroin use is back, user is different

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The drug-fueled death of a Hollywood actor is putting the spotlight on a reemerging trend in the country: heroin use. Experts here say it's also becoming a local problem, and today's user isn't who you would suspect.

Last weekend Glee star Cory Monteith died alone in a Vancouver hotel room from a fatal mixture of heroin and alcohol.

Here locally, officials from hospitals to rehab clinics say they've seen a recent surge in heroin use.

"It's a drug that's very addictive. it's now sometimes cheaper, easier to obtain," said Debbie Loudermilk, Director of Outpatient Services at the Council for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services.

What was once considered a drug of the past is now coming back to the forefront. Heroin can be deadly, and it's here in Chattanooga.

Erlanger, the area's largest hospital, is reporting opiate overdose patients taken to their emergency room has nearly doubled in the past six months. Their numbers show 88 cases from July 2012 to December 2012, and 164 cases from January 2013 to June 2013.

While they can't pinpoint heroin as the main culprit, other local experts said it's likely considering the increase at rehab centers.

"I would say in the last six months, both here locally and on a state level, we're seeing an increase in heroin use prompting someone to come to treatment," Loudermilk said.

She said it's an increase at CADAS from one or two patients a year to two or more a month.

But the recent death Monteith points out another alarming fact - the face of a heroin addict isn't what it used to be. They look just like Monteith - white men, white collared, and in their thirties.

Local experts believe this is having a trickle-down effect.

"We're seeing it start to trend with younger adults. You know, 15 to 25. So the first use of heroin is really starting a lot sooner," Loudermilk said.

Tony Neuhoff has been an outpatient coordinator at Parkridge Health System for 27 years. He also recognizes the local surge in heroin use, and he said now is the time to talk about it.

"We want to address it so it can be preventative, and we can learn from that experience so that one person hadn't laid down their life for nothing," he said.

Whether it be helping a friend or family member get help, or getting yourself help, experts say it's never too late nor to early.

Loudermilk said the surge in heroin use could be credited to the recent government crackdown of prescription pills. She said state officials are already talking about how to fight the problem before it reaches a crisis level.

If you or someone you know needs help for a heroin addiction, you can call local organizations like CADAS and Parkridge Valley.

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