New wave of heroin use worrying officials - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

New wave of heroin use worrying officials

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This past weekend's death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman is once again shining a light on the dangers of heroin.

Health officials in Maryland, in fact, are warning of a new and deadlier form of the drug that is hitting our streets.

"Parents need to be aware that it's out there," says a narcotics detective with the Laurel Police Department. "And things that lead to heroin use could be prescription drugs."

He agreed to be quoted as long as we did so without his name. He says people can easily buy heroin in bars and at motels.

"Pills are very addictive like heroin,” said the detective. “What we've found out is that people that were using prescription drugs, oxycotin and other stuff, that it was becoming harder for them to obtain those drugs and heroin was cheaper. So people were switching to that."

The trouble with heroin and other opioids is the user's brain becomes dependent on the drug.

"So that when you don't have it, you become very sick. Physically sick and emotionally sick," says Dr. Melinda Campopiano, medical officer with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the federal agency overseeing substance abuse services across the U.S. "This is part of what feeds the cycle."

She says there is a higher risk of death from overdose during a recovering addict's relapse.

"Any form of addiction is potentially dangerous,” says Dr. Campopiano. “Heroin is of course particularly scary and more deadly than some."

And it is cheap: $6 to $10 for a small bag of heroin. And rising in popularity among young people.

"The risk factors for addiction include a genetic component," says Dr. Campopiano. "Any kind of depression or anxiety in a young person. And sometimes trauma. So these are things you can watch for and monitor to try to keep your child safe."

Those Maryland officials say that it is becoming more difficult with 37 deaths across the state now tied to that tainted and more deadly form of heroin.

Montgomery County officials say they have seen an increase in fatal overdoses: 17 since last June.

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