Western Courier

Heroin becomes emerging problem

Isaiah Herard, News Editor

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Over the course of the year Macomb has seen a bevy of drug arrests, however, the most prominent drug in McDonough County is known as Heroin.

In an interview with the McDonough County Voice, McDonough County Sheriff Rick VanBrooker said the Heroin epidemic is under control.

 “I consider the heroin issue controllable at this point,” VanBrooker said. “Right now, I’d put both meth and heroin around a four or five (on a scale of one to ten, with ten
being worst).”

 According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Heroin is an opioid drug made from morphine, a natural substance taken from the seed pod of the various opium poppy plants grown in Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico, and Colombia. Heroin is usually a white or brown powder, or a black sticky substance known as black tar heroin. Other monikers for Heroin include big H, horse, hell dust, and smack., and its use can be extremely detrimental to individuals who choose to use it.

 Michelle Renee, a law enforcement official in Cook County, said it is easy to identify a potential heroin user in the penal facility.

 “I work inside lock up and not on the streets and I’ve witnessed nodding, needle marks, incoherence, itching skin, blank stares and vomiting,” Renee said. “They become dope sick if they can’t get (heroin) within a certain time.”

Heroin users inject, sniff, snort or smoke heroin so they can obtain their “rush.”  Some people mix heroin with crack cocaine, a more dangerous method known
as “speedballing.”

 According to Mark Giese, Medical Director with a specialty in emergency medicine, Heroin enters the brain immediately and affects the receptors of the brain involved with feelings of pain and pleasure.

 “There are many side effects from the usage of heroin. There is both a physical and psychological addiction,” Giese said. “It is very hard to be treated for because of the two types of addictions.”

 Giese also noted possible side effects including dry mouth, warm flushing of the skin, heavy feeling in the arms and legs, nausea and vomiting, severe itching, insomnia, collapsed veins, damaged tissue inside the nose for people who sniff or snort it, infection of the heart lining and valves, and sexual dysfunction for men. People who inject drugs like heroin are also at high risk of being diagnosed with the HIV and hepatitis C viruses. The common misconception is that these diseases are solely transmitted through contact with blood and other bodily fluids, however, the transmission of bodily fluids can occur when sharing needles to inject drugs.

 Giese said addiction to heroin can be treated like many other chronic addictions. Due to technological advances, medications are available to treat heroin addiction while reducing their addiction to drugs and withdrawal symptoms, increasing the chances of heroin purity altogether.

 “Mostly benzodiazapines like Valium or Narcan are meds that reverses the effects of heroin,” Giese said. “Many EMS and Police departments carry it with them now.”

 Although medical improvements can aid a heroin addict, abusers of the drug often overdose. A heroin overdose occurs when a person uses enough of the drug to induce a life-threatening reaction, or worst-case scenario, death.

 According to Giese, when people overdose on heroin, their breathing often slows or stops. This can decrease the amount of oxygen that reaches the brain, a condition known as “hypoxia.” Hypoxia can have long term mental effects and effects on an individual’s nervous system, often inducing a coma or permanent brain damage.

 “Heroin is highly addictive,” Giese said. “People who regularly use heroin often develop a tolerance, which means that they need higher and more frequent doses of the drug to get their desired rush. They develop a substance use disorder causing health problems and inability to perform their daily obligations.”

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Heroin becomes emerging problem