This article was originally published on April 23, 2014 in the Wisconsin State Journal.
Regarding recent coverage of heroin use, as addiction medicine physicians at Meriter, we confirm the opiate crisis is not overstated. Opiate abuse is rampant in Dane County.
The cycle of use is well documented: Users begin experimenting with prescription drugs such as oxycodone or Percocet. When they experience withdrawal symptoms and can no longer afford to get prescription drugs, they may progress to using heroin, a cheaper alternative.
Some buy heroin on the streets and stay with snorting. Others start injecting, exposing themselves to diseases. Many miscalculate the amount or develop tolerance — that’s when we see overdoses.
The need for treatment is clear. It works, and real options exist. Addressing underlying mental health and social issues are part of treatment. Unfortunately, shame, stigma, finances and not knowing where to start may keep people from seeking treatment.
Our lack of a social network to care for these individuals leads to a life-long loss of potential. We, as a community, need to become engaged in this issue.