Public needs education about dangers of heroin

GIVEN THE SPREAD OF potent heroin and rising numbers of overdoses statewide, the Wisconsin Department of Justice is right to educate the public.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has launched a campaign in which he teams with parents who’ve lost children to this highly addictive and deadly scourge.

“Sometimes we are planted in the darkness to be a light,” says Wisconsinite Julie Berg, who lost her son, Tyler, to heroin in 2012. “Awareness is critical. Warn your children of heroin’s deceptive power, and remind them it can look as innocent as a pill. The minds of heroin addicts are altered; it takes a supernatural power to bring them hope.”

“We will suffer the loss of our son to a heroin overdose for the rest of our lives,” said Carole Buege of DeForest. “Never assume that your child is immune to drugs.”

Heroin is spreading rapidly in Wisconsin. In 2005, only 22 counties submitted heroin cases to the State Crime Lab. Last year, 56 counties - representing every part of Wisconsin - submitted cases.

Rock County has its share of problems, as The Gazette has reported in recent years. Nico Savidge wrote in August that the drug is being distributed here in purer forms. That tells authorities that the trafficking route has gotten more efficient. Heroin crosses the border from Mexico and travels along the Interstate to Chicago, the Upper Midwest’s distribution hub. It enters secondary markets such as Beloit and Rockford, where Janesville users travel to buy it.

Some heroin seized locally is 70 percent pure. That makes it more appealing because users can snort it instead of injecting it with needles. It also, however, triggers more overdoses. Janesville police reported three overdoses in 2009. That rose to 16 in 2012, and this year’s pace could top 20.

More and more young people are becoming addicts after starting with readily available prescription drugs such as oxycodone, an opiate like heroin. They swipe the pills from family medicine cabinets and experiment with them at parties. Once hooked, they need a cheaper way to get their fixes and turn to heroin.

The Justice Department’s campaign involves TV commercials, video testimonials, posters, brochures and fact sheets. The theme - The Fly Effect - is inspired by the nursery rhyme “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly.” The song’s escalation and spiral parallels that of heroin addiction.

A message at is powerful:

“Snorted, smoked or injected, heroin’s seriously addictive. At least 75 percent of those who try it ‘just once’ end up using again. Only the more you take, the less it works and the more you need. Not to get high. Just to feel normal. It’s a nasty spiral, and only heroin is in control.

“As of right now, you’re not a liar. You’re not a thief or a dropout. A victim, a prostitute, a bad friend, an untrustworthy sibling or some lost kid sleeping on the streets. You’re you. Let’s keep it that way.” — The Janesville Gazette, Oct. 8

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