OxyContin plays a role in heroin increase
Police are seeing younger heroin addicts, as well as many who have switched to heroin after using drugs such as OxyContin.
OxyContin is an effective painkiller designed to help people in severe distress, said Anthony Pettigrew, spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration at its Boston headquarters. But when it became news people were using it to get high, politicians began a crackdown on its availability.
Doctors are prescribing less and less of it, driving up its price and lowering its availability. Because it is so hard to obtain, many users have switched to heroin, Pettigrew said.
“OxyContin and heroin go hand in hand,” he said.
One 40-milligram OxyContin pill goes for $40 on the streets of Cambridge. Heroin, at about $6 a bag, is much more affordable.
It also can be snorted because of its high purity, unlike the heroin of years past, which users typically injected. Snorting OxyContin or heroin does not carry the same stigma, Pettigrew said.
“People who normally would have never abused heroin are trying it,” he said. “Younger people are more apt to snort something. They lose the stigma of being a junkie. If you went to a party and someone came up to you with a needle and said, ‘Try this,’ you wouldn’t try it.”
But people, especially those who have snorted other drugs, might try a little heroin up their nostrils, which is how they get started – sometimes ending up addicted.