The key to preventing heroin abuse doesn’t rest in one corner. Law enforcement can’t do it alone; treatment isn’t a silver bullet. The safest thing is not to start, according to law enforcement.
“This is not a drug anybody should mess with,” said Superior Police Chief Charles LaGesse.
But if someone does start, according to the Wisconsin Department of Justice, their best chance at kicking heroin is to do it soon. The longer you’re addicted, according to the website, the harder it is to get off. While early identification of the drug is critical, early warning signs can be hard to spot.
Heroin is a sedative that slows down the body’s normal functions. Users experience an intense euphoric rush. The drug flushes the skin, makes arms and legs feel heavy and thoughts cloudy. It also dangerously slows a user’s breathing and heartbeat. Many heroin users seem drowsy while they’re high; they drift in and out of consciousness. Other effects can include slowed and slurred speech, slow gait, constricted pupils, droopy eyelids, impaired night vision, vomiting and constipation, according to drugfree.org.
The current purity levels of the drug allow users to smoke and snort the drug as well as inject it with a needle. But the substance is highly addictive regardless of how it is used.
Heroin use can lead to criminal activity as users deal drugs, turn to prostitution or start stealing to support their habit. Heroin addicts could end up contracting AIDS, in prison or “dead on the floor” if they overdose, LaGesse said.
“There is no happy ending without intervention,” he said, but “it’s certainly worth the fight.”
Members of the newly formed Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Superior Police Department Narcotics Unit listed signs of possible heroin abuse that parents should watch for — disassociation with friends, new friends, slipping grades, borrowing money, selling belongings and involvement in thefts or forgeries.
The DOJ also listed secretive phone calls, demands for more privacy, breaking promises, weight loss or eating poorly. Parents should also be concerned if their child displays a sudden lack of hygiene or losses interest in hobbies or activities.
Paraphernalia to watch for includes needles, tourniquets, melted pens and straws, burnt tin foil and the drug itself. In its purest form, heroin is a fine, white powder. Street heroin can run the gamut from gray to dark brown or black, depending on what it is cut with.
If parents find these items or see the signs, they need to reach out.
“There is hope,” said Sgt. James Madden, coordinator of the narcotics unit. But, he said, “there are ways off it. In most cases, you’re going to need help.”
That can come in different forms. A search on the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration turned up 14 different treatment centers in the Twin Ports, including HDC and Ridgewood Recovery Inc. in Superior. To locate a treatment center, call 800-662-4357 or visit http://findtreatment.samhsa.gov.
Sometimes, letting users face the consequences of their actions is the answer. Six months in jail, LaGesse said, is six months off heroin.
One of the things the Wisconsin DOJ emphasized on its website is that prescription drug abuse is the gateway that brings most users to heroin. Use of prescription drugs, in particular painkillers, should be closely monitored. Unused and prescribed prescription drugs can be disposed of in a drop-off box located in the lobby of the joint law enforcement center, located in the Government Center, 1316 N. 14th St.
More information on the effects of heroin use are available at TheFlyEffect.
com. Information on how to intervene if you suspect or know your child is using illegal drugs is available through www.drugfree.org.