Editor’s note: Stories this week and last week show that heroin is a problem in our area. This commentary by State Sen. Neal Kedzie seems especially timely.
Heroin is an extremely addictive drug, and any family with a loved one who has an addiction knows how difficult it can be to handle.
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, more than 75 percent of those who try heroin once will use it again, and unfortunately, the brain of a teenager is especially susceptible to addiction.
Heroin is also a very deadly drug. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services notes that the number of drug-related heroin deaths in Wisconsin more than doubled between 2005 and 2010, and the problem is getting worse.
A survey of Wisconsin county coroners found the number of heroin-related deaths nearly doubled in 2012. This growing heroin problem has become a priority for lawmakers seeking to stem the tide and save lives, and a number of bills are moving through the Legislature which may help.
Currently, basic emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are not allowed to carry naloxone, which is a drug used to counter the effects of opiate overdose, including heroin overdose.
Under Assembly Bill 446, all levels of EMT and first responders may be trained to administer the drug. The bill also includes police and fire but uses permissive language, leaving the decision up to the individual community to decide whether to allow other public safety officers the ability to administer naloxone.
Often, abusers of heroin use the drug in groups. Sadly though, if one of the users overdoses, others in the group will often leave the person to die rather than call for help out of fear of being arrested.
In response, the Legislature passed Assembly Bill 447, which provides limited immunity from certain criminal prosecutions for a person who brings another person to an emergency room or other healthcare facility, or who calls 911 for a person having an adverse reaction or overdose from a controlled substance. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, prescription drug abuse is the nation’s fastest growing drug problem.
Prescription drugs often serve as a stepping stone to heroin use and addiction, and can be stolen, misused, or abused when left unmonitored in household medicine cabinets.
Assembly Bill 445, which I have co-sponsored, requires an individual to show identification if they are picking up Schedule II or III controlled substance which is also a narcotic or opiate prescription medication.
By doing so, pharmacies could help law enforcement resolve drug crimes by keeping a record of dispensed drugs and the name of the person who received them. Law enforcement would not have access to the list unless they pursued proper legal channels. All three bills have passed both Houses of the Legislature and are currently awaiting the Governor’s signature.
Disposing of unused and unwanted prescription drugs can be a way to help prevent heroin addiction, and there is a safe, anonymous way to get rid of unused or unwanted prescription drugs.
The National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on April 26 is a free and anonymous way to drop off expired, unused, or unwanted prescription drugs.
There will be collection sites across Wisconsin between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. that day. For a list of drop off locations, contact your local law enforcement agency or, beginning April 1, 2014, you may search by zip code on the U.S. Department of Justice’s Web site at www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback.
If you know someone who may have an addiction, please do not wait to get them the help they need.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice (DOJ) has a number of resources on its website, including information on heroin, resources for addiction assistance, warning signs of addiction, and much more. This information can be found on the DOJ Web site at www.doj.state.wi.us/dci/heroin-awareness/a-dangerous-epidemic, by calling DOJ at 608-266-1221, or from my office anytime.
Senator Kedzie can be reached in Madison at P.O. Box 7882, Madison, WI 53707-7882 or by calling toll-free 1 (800) 578-1457. He may be reached in the district at (262) 742-2025 or online at www.senatorkedzie.com