Uptick in heroin use in Tucson

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Sometimes a tragic, untimely death will start a conversation.

That's the case with Phillip Seymour Hoffman who died from an apparent heroin overdose last week.

The Commission on Treatment and Addiction invited Chief Deputy of the Pima County Attorney's office Amelia Cramer to address the group about new legislation, guns and medical marijuana.

But when the meeting was thrown open to questions, the group immediately wanted to talk about heroin use.

She told the group there has been an increase in drug related prosecutions, specifically heroin.

But she's hard pressed to say why.

"We don't know whether there's been more drug abuse or more law enforcement on the ground who are catching people," she said.

There are 26 law enforcement agencies, local and federal, which target drug use and users.

Most report increased heroin use but numbers will be collated and released.

Cramer said she could have the prosecution numbers in a couple of days.

But Cramer has a possible cause for the increase.

"There youngsters who are addicted to drugs which are prescription," she says.

She says the kids steal the meds out of their parents medicine cabinet.

After a while, they can't get the pills anymore but the addiction remains.

"They can't get the prescription drugs anymore and it's easier to buy heroin off the street and it's cheaper," she says.

Roy Tullgren, the chair of the commission agrees.

"A pill with opiates in it may cost anywhere between $20 and $40 and they need multiple pills," he says. "Heroin is more accessible and it's less expensive."

Both will give the same high.

As for what to do about the uptick is a difficult question.

"As with any of our drug problems, it becomes whack a mole," says Cramer. "You tamp down one and another pops up and this time the one that's popped up is heroine use."

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