FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – With more than 180 deaths from heroin overdoses recorded since January in Connecticut, officials are sounding an alarm on the growing narcotics problem.
“This dramatic increase of heroin use and abuse in Connecticut is unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). “Our state has lost hundreds more people to heroin use in the last year, but we’re not doing enough to change the way we address this crisis.”
The number of deaths this year already outnumbers the 174 heroin-related deaths recorded in the state in 2012. And the rate of deaths is more rapid than in 2013, when 257 people died of heroin-related causes. Less than three months into the year, the number equals about 70 percent of last year's total deaths.
Fairfield Police Sgt. Sue Lussier blamed the deaths on the spike in heroin use in the area and in the state. Heroin is a cheaper high than prescription pills, she said, making it an increasingly popular alternative for drug addicts.
“When they switch to heroin, it’s because of economy,” Lussier said. One pill of oxycodone sells for $80 on the street, whereas one bag of heroin sells for $4, she said as an example.
Heroin is the second most likely substance to be abused in Connecticut after alcohol, Lussier said.
The drug problem hits more young people, with the greatest concentration of heroin users in the age range of 22 to 32, Lussier said. Many of these users had previously been getting high from prescription medications found in homes, she said.
“Sometimes it’s a catalyst for an individual who can no longer obtain the painkillers to move into the line of heroin,” said State Police Lt. Paul Vance. “It's relatively accessible because it's relatively inexpensive.”
Darien Sgt. Jeremiah Marron agreed that heroin use is becoming a bigger problem in the area and said it leading to crime beyond illegal drug use.
“Not only is heroin sold and used in Darien, but it’s severely addictive properties are motivating crimes such as burglary, larceny, theft from vehicles, and recently even home invasion,” said Marron.
The heroin problem isn’t isolated to just Connecticut, though, Vance said. He called the increase in heroin use and sales an “epidemic.” Heroin is even more dangerous to use because it is often laced with fentanyl, which dramatically increases the possibility of overdose, he said.
The Statewide Narcotics Task Force, which taps into local police forces as well as state troopers, works to find and stop heroin and other drugs from getting to the population, he said.
“But it’s a situation we need not only law enforcement, we need parents to be aware, we need people to understand, that abusing prescription drugs is dangerous,” Vance said.
He encouraged residents to dispose of unwanted prescriptions, especially items such as painkillers that can be gateway drugs to even more dangerous and illegal narcotics.
Most police stations have drop boxes for residents to safely dispose of unused or expired prescription medications, Vance said.
The Darien police posted seven ways to notice if someone could be using heroin:
- Sudden behavior changes.
- Changes in peer groups.
- You find drug paraphernalia.
- Money troubles.
- Missing possessions.
- Body mutilation.
- Drop off in work or school performance.