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Wyoming Is Being Hit By The Opiate Epidemic

Heroin use is spreading across Wyoming. Following a national trend in which opiate addicts are making the switch from opiate based painkillers to heroin. It seems that every state is being affected by this epidemic. Some states are being hit in different ways and Wyoming is no different. They have seen their usage and overdoses steadily climb.

Kebin Haller, deputy director of operations for the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, said his agency has reports of seven fatal heroin overdoses so far this year which is up from six deaths in all of 2013. The numbers have steadily climbed over the past few years with two fatal overdoses in 2012 and five in 2011. Haller said the figures don't capture all the overdose deaths in the state. They are working with federal and local law enforcement agencies as well as county coroners to track overdose deaths better. There needs to be a better system of tracking these opiate deaths and with more information they obtain, the better the statistics will be.  With these results, hopefully more can be done to help curb the abuse.

Haller says that the current situation is out of control, and it looks as though the numbers are not telling the whole story. He said it is likely that we will see a climb in these numbers and that there are far more heroin addicts in Wyoming than we think. Haller said families need to control of prescription pain medications to make sure they don't get into the wrong hands such as young teens and children. Many teens take the medications from the parents medicine cabinets and share them with friends at school. It is clearly noted that many addictions start from taking medications from medicine cabinets in the home. "There seems to be a perception that if a company makes it, and a doctor prescribes it and a pharmacist gives it to you, that it somehow is ok," Haller said. "And we have to let those that we're responsible for like our kids know that it's not ok, that these drugs do kill."

The Wyoming Department of Health doesn't track heroin deaths specifically but Kim Deti, spokeswoman for the department, said the number of admissions to residential heroin treatment programs funded at least in part with state dollars rose from 15 in 2010 to 45 so far in 2014. The number of outpatient admissions rose from 78 in 2010 to 104 so far this year. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health has tracked reports of increasing heroin use nationwide over the past decade.

Stu Healy, an assistant U.S. attorney in Cheyenne, prosecutes drug cases. He said heroin in Wyoming commonly comes from larger cities such as Salt Lake or Denver, where a one-tenth gram dose of the drug that sells for $10 can bring $50 in Wyoming. "This is now affecting the whole state," Healy said. "There are investigations in every part of the state involving heroin, that's definitely fair to say, and involving deaths resulting from the use of heroin."  Hopefully more can be done to help educate the youth, as well as those who are addicted to provide addicts with professional treatment.


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