Feb 4, 2014 8:38 PM by Andy Koen

Heroin deaths climb in Colorado

Heroin overdoses in Colorado are at their highest point in a decade. The state health department reports 91 people died from using the drug in 2012. The overdose death Sunday of actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman has cast a national spotlight on the resurgence of heroin addiction. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports American heroin abuse nearly doubled from 2007 with 373,000 reported users to 2012 with 669,000.

When it comes to heroin busts in Southern Colorado, Drug Enforcement Administration agents say 2014 is already off to an ominous start.

"We've already seized close to five pounds of heroin in the small town of Rocky Ford," said DEA Resident Agent in Charge Matthew Barden. "Compared to last year, we probably seized somewhere around 6 or 7 pounds."

Five pounds may not seem like much, but it amounts to roughly the equivalent of 115 bags of the drug for every man, woman and child in Otero County.

"I'm hoping that the track we're on does not continue," said Barden.

Substance abuse counselor Dr. Bonna Machlan of Aspen Pointe says many new patients addicted to heroin got hooked on the drug after abusing prescription pain killers.

"People begin with painkillers of different types and they begin abusing those, they run out of those, they can't get more prescriptions. Heroin becomes maybe something they go to next."

Heroin and prescription opiates like Oxycodone give a similar high because they're derived from the same poppy plants. Heroin is often cheaper and easier to get.

Machlan says the recovery programs at Aspen Pointe are successful. However, they require a strong commitment from the addict, especially when getting over withdrawal symptoms.

"Opiates are something that is all consuming and can be very quickly in people's lives," she said.

As a rule of thumb, Machlan says the longer a person stays with a treatment program, the greater their chances of success in breaking the addiction.

Aspen Pointe counselors can be reached at 719-572-6100.

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