The number of heroin-related deaths has spiked in Alabama — especially in Jefferson County — in the last year, which has inspired officials and law enforcement to take more proactive efforts to combat the problem.
In January, AL.com reported that the number of heroin deaths in Jefferson County increased by a startling 140% in 2014. As of December 29th, there were 123 heroin-related deaths and 18 additional cases of suspected heroin deaths.
“Heroin continues to be Satan himself, taking lives with no regard or respect to who dares go down that road holding hands with him,” Jefferson County sheriff’s Chief Deputy Randy Christian told AL.com.
Danny Molloy, a former heroin addict who now works at the Addiction Prevention Coalition, works to help those who suffer with substance abuse problems in central Alabama. He started using heroin after first abusing prescription drugs, which is a common gateway.
Over 26 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 64 have frequent back pain, which prescription medications like narcotics are typically used to treat. Prescription medication abuse can lead to the use of illicit drugs, and it often does.
The Addiction Prevention Coalition is just one participant in the larger initiative to combat heroin use, prevent addiction, and help reduce the number of heroin-related deaths in Alabama.
According to AL.com, heroin use in Alabama isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. Authorities were first alerted to the growing issue back in 2012, when the number of heroin-related deaths doubled from the preceding year.
A “From Pills to Needles” initiative was introduced last year, which endeavors to find the source of the drugs coming into the state, which was found to be Mexico. Rather than jailing small-time users, Alabama law enforcement is focusing on finding and imprisoning the big-time distributors.
Additionally, greater social efforts are being made as well, like community programming such as the “Issues and Ales: Heroin in Alabama” forum which gathers members of the Department of Health, family members of addicts and those lost to the heroin use, and recovering addicts.