Heroin appeals to addicts hooked on pain pills

EUGENE, Ore. - Heroin use in Lane County is on the rise: Law enforcement officers say they are seeing quantities at the same level as methamphetamine.

"A lot of heroin coming back into the area. A lot of people that are addicted to it and its just as prevalent or even more so at times than the meth quantities around," Deputy Greg Jones with the Lane County Sheriff's Office said.

Jones believes addiction to prescription painkillers and the comeback of heroin are related.

Heroin is an opiate just like prescription pain meds - only cheaper.

"As those pills are getting hard to find they seek the same high with heroin as a good substitute," Jones said.

Now Lane County is faced with a new group of drug addicts who must support their expensive habit.

Walter Rosental, Program Supervisor for Lane Counties Methadone Treatment Program said he saw a rise in heroin about 5 years about when the economy became difficult. Nearly 75 percent of their patients are seeking treatment for heroin addiction.

He says opiate addiction is difficult to treat. He says addicts often are self medicating for pain but become so addicted they need their drugs to feel normal.

"Of course with the withdraw and the overdose potential there are huge costs to the community in terms of health care costs," Rosental said.

Rosenthal says they have seen people turn their lives around through methadone treatment. He says Lane County is lucky to have a treatment center at all, but they are only funded to treat about 350 patients.

"I would argue that to put a little more out in funds for treatment saves the county on hospital costs and the criminal justice costs, Rosental said.