DrugSense FOCUS Alert #172 May 10, 2000 

DrugSense FOCUS Alert #172 May 10, 2000 
Posted by FoM on May 10, 2000 at 13:19:07 PT
USA Today: Drug War Draws More Girls To Heroin 
Source: MapInc.
Is the drug war supposed to save children from drugs? If it is, it's failing again. USA Today is reporting increasing rates of heroin use among young girls. The support given for this assertion is mostly anecdotal, but the story does note that government surveys indicate increased use of heroin by young people in recent years, as well as increased emergency room visits related to heroin for women in general. 
Not surprisingly, prohibitionists interviewed for the article recommend more tough measures to fight heroin. Some of the experts also offer "solutions" that are kinder and gentler, though not likely to be more effective, like an advertising campaign featuring the theme "girl power." Unfortunately, no one quoted in the story points out how the basic drug war principles help to encourage drug problems among young people. But, the information is there for those who look between the lines. Careful readers are reminded of the allure of forbidden fruit and the success of drug cartels in raising quality and lowering prices. Please write a letter to USA Today to say that the same old drug war tactics are increasing drug problems, not decreasing them, for girls and boys of every age. Thanks for your effort and support. WRITE A LETTER TODAY It's not what others do it's what YOU do  PLEASE SEND US A COPY OF YOUR LETTER OR TELL US WHAT YOU DID (Letter, Phone, fax etc.)Please post a copy your letter or report your action to the sent letter list (sentlet if you are subscribed, or by E-mailing a copy directly to MGreer Your letter will then be forwarded to the list with so others can learn from your efforts and be motivated to follow suit. This is VERY IMPORTANT as it is the only way we have of gauging our impact and effectiveness. CONTACT INFO Source: USA Today (US) Contact: editor ARTICLE Pubdate: Tue, 09 May 2000 Source: USA Today (US) Copyright: 2000 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc. Page: 1A - Cover Story Contact: editor Address: 1000 Wilson Blvd., Arlington VA 22229 Fax: (703) 247-3108 Website: Author: Donna Leinwand, USA TODAY HEROIN'S RESURGENCE CLOSES DRUG'S TRADITIONAL GENDER GAP Teenage Girls Are Increasingly Falling Prey To Narcotic In Purer, 'More Mainstream,' Sniffable Form Simona Troisi was a high school freshman on Long Island, at 14 already a user of marijuana and LSD, when she gave $40 to a friend to score some cocaine in New York City. The friend returned with a powder that gave Troisi a sickening high when she snorted it. ''I don't even know what it was,'' Troisi says. ''I just kept doing it because I had it.'' The strange powder was heroin, and within a few months, Troisi's recreational drug habit became a destructive lifestyle. She landed in a drug rehabilitation program after being charged with selling heroin to an undercover police officer. She had turned to dealing to help finance her appetite for tiny, $10 bags of the drug. Now 20 and nine months into rehab, Troisi symbolizes how thousands of girls across the USA have fueled a dramatic resurgence of heroin use among teenagers, particularly in suburban and rural areas. Not since the late 1960s and early 1970s, when a typical dose was much less potent and almost always injected, has heroin been so hip among middle-class teens. Heroin's re-emergence comes at a time when girls -- once far less likely than boys to drink, smoke marijuana or use harder drugs such as heroin -- now appear to be keeping pace with them, says Mark Weber, spokesman for the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Weber's agency, after finding that existing drug prevention programs helped reduce drug use only among boys, recently helped create an advertising campaign called ''Girl Power'' to deliver anti-drug messages specifically to girls. A television commercial now airing features Olympic figure skating champion Tara Lipinski and Brandi Chastain, a member of the 1999 U.S. Women's World Cup soccer team, urging girls not to ''blow it'' by using drugs. The agency also has begun an unprecedented effort to collect statistics on girls' drug use. The new surge in heroin use made national news with the overdose deaths of more than a dozen teenagers in Plano, Texas, and suburban Orlando in 1996. Since then, hospital emergency rooms on Long Island, N.Y., and in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Philadelphia suburbs and several other middle-class areas have been hit by clusters of teens on heroin. ''The picture is frightening,'' says Mitchell Rosenthal, a psychiatrist and president of a chain of drug treatment centers who will testify before the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control today about the emerging heroin problem in the suburbs. ''We've got a lot of suburban kids at risk. I don't think the modern affluent parent thinks about heroin being a danger in Scarsdale or Beverly Hills.'' One of four teenagers scheduled to testify today is Kathryn Logan, 19, of San Juan Capistrano in southern California. At 9, Logan stole sips of wine from unfinished glasses. At 13, she rifled through medicine cabinets for prescription drugs she could chop up and sniff. She packed the powder into ballpoint pen casings so she could get high during class. At 15, she snorted heroin and cocaine and smoked crack. ''I felt more normal when I was on drugs,'' says Logan, who developed bulimia, had an abortion and tried to commit suicide. ''I felt being sober was too boring.'' To pay for her habit, she stole money from her parents and at one point pawned her grandmother's diamond ring for $25. Even so, she kept up her grades, made the junior varsity tennis team and tried out for cheer leading. But she felt she didn't fit in at school, where she thought the people were ''rich and stuck up.'' Her father, a contractor, and her mother, a flight attendant, didn't seem to notice her drug use. ''I was always making up excuses. I had everything under control, the whole world under control. It was hard, let me tell you,'' says Logan, who entered rehab 79 days ago to avoid going to jail on alcohol and marijuana possession charges. ''My parents were clueless. I think they were in total denial that I was doing drugs until I told them about it.'' Heroin Considered 'Super Cool' Heroin use remains relatively rare among teens overall. A study by the University of Michigan last year estimated that about 2% of youths ages 12-17 had tried it. However, that was more than double the rate of seven years earlier. The same study indicated that 2.3% of eighth-graders in the USA, about 83,160 youths, had used heroin. Analysts continue to examine the reasons behind the surge. There are the usual factors: teen angst, peer pressure, boredom, the attraction of something dangerous for teens with money to spend. But analysts say it's also clear that new, highly potent forms of heroin from drug cartels in Colombia and Mexico have been key to attracting new users -- particularly girls. For years, most heroin had to be injected directly into a user's bloodstream to be effective. Girls typically prefer to sniff or smoke their drugs rather than inject them, so heroin was out of vogue, experts say. But now, with more potent heroin available as a powder in small bags or gel capsules, users can get high without injecting. That has made it more palatable to girls. ''Young girls don't like injecting regularly. It leaves marks. With the increase in purity of heroin, it made it smokable,'' Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., says. As co-chairman of the Senate narcotics caucus, Biden issues regular reports on drug abuse. ''We are seeing a wider range of users,'' says H. Westley Clark, a psychiatrist and director of the federal Center for Substance Abuse Treatment in Washington, D.C. ''We have been seeing younger people use. It has been fairly dramatic. These drugs are becoming equal opportunity drugs. There is no gender bias.'' Lynn Ponton, a San Francisco-area psychiatrist, says that just last week a 17-year-old girl she is counseling tested positive for heroin in a routine drug screening. ''Traditional gender roles associated with risk-taking are not holding ... for drug abuse,'' says Ponton, who wrote The Romance of Risk, a book about adolescent risk-taking. ''Once (a drug is) available and hasn't been used for a long time, it's deemed cool by the teenagers. Heroin is still considered a super-cool drug, and it has high risk associated with it. It's probably the mystique of the drug.'' Like the stimulant and hallucinogen Ecstasy, another favorite drug of the moment, heroin plays to girls' insecurities. Users lose their appetite, and so lose weight. The ''heroin girl'' look has been glamorized recently, from ashen, wafer-thin runway models to anthems by grunge bands. All this has recast heroin in a more favorable light for this generation of youths. Troisi, who is 5 feet 5 and weighed 80 pounds when she entered drug treatment, says she never associated heroin with images of needle-toting junkies from the 1960s and '70s. ''Think of all the heroin-chic pictures that have been in the culture for a number of years,'' Rosenthal says. ''Advertising campaigns show gaunt men and women. The stigma of heroin appears to have faded.'' Heroin, a narcotic derived from the opium poppy, was developed in the 1880s as a pain reliever and substitute for highly addictive morphine. Scientists soon found that heroin is even more addictive. It was made illegal in the United States in 1914. Heroin is produced mainly in Southeast Asia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Mexico and Colombia. For street sales, heroin is mixed, or ''cut,'' with other ingredients, such as quinine or sugar. A hit of heroin produces a rush of euphoria followed by several hours of relaxation and wooziness. Twenty years ago, a milligram dose with 3.6% pure heroin (and cut with 96.4% other ingredients) cost about $3.90, says Richard Fiano, director of operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration. Now, the average milligram is 41.6% pure and costs about $1. Some Colombian heroin the DEA seized recently was 98% pure, Fiano says. Colombian drug lords used existing cocaine distribution networks to introduce the purer heroin to the USA, Fiano says. ''They have a very, very good marketing strategy,'' he says. ''They've come out with a new product line. They even have packaged it with brand names, just like buying a pack of cigarettes. They even gave out free samples.'' Emergency-Room Visits Rise The strategy appears to be working; heroin users are younger than ever. Surveys by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicate the average age of first-time users plummeted from about 27.4 years in 1988 to 17.6 in 1997, the youngest average since 1969. Emergency-room doctors reported in 1997 and 1998 that heroin is involved in four to six visits out of 100,000 by youths ages 12 to 17, up from one in 100,000 in 1990. For young adults 18 to 25, 41 emergency room visits in 100,000 involved heroin, up from 19 in 1991. Among women in general, the numbers have doubled in a decade. Biden would like to direct more federal money to drug treatment for adolescents and law enforcement efforts in Colombia. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate narcotics caucus, says that even if the USA directs more money toward Colombia, the focus should be on sending teens a clear anti-drug message, similar to the Reagan administration's ''Just Say No'' campaign. Troisi says a steady stream of information about the risks of different drugs might have steered her away from heroin. She and her friends had no idea how seductive and addictive the drug could be, she says. She adds that she had no trouble finding heroin in her affluent hometown, Selden, N.Y. ''I'm not saying that heroin is the normal thing, but it is going more mainstream,'' she says. ''When I first started, I was one of the first females, but I've seen more and more. I've seen them come into detox.'' In Selden, about 45 miles from New York City, there isn't a whole lot for teens to do, and becoming a drug user wasn't too different from finding a spot in an after-school club, she says. ''It seemed like this underground society,'' says Troisi, who says she grew up in a stable home with three brothers, including one who was high school valedictorian. Her father is a high school teacher. ''Boredom played a big part of it. A lot of my friends got involved in drugs real young. I kept away from it for a while, but I was real lonely. When I started using heroin, I just kept going back to it. I felt like I'd never feel comfortable with myself without it.'' Like many girls who slide into addiction, Troisi wound up taking heroin the way she initially avoided: by injection. That way, Troisi, who sometimes spent more than $100 a day on drugs, needed less heroin to get high. By the time she was 15, Troisi says, she loathed getting out of bed without a heroin jolt. ''I used to sleep with a bag of it in my bra so I would have it first thing, so I could get out of bed and brush my teeth,'' she says. Troisi, who after nine months of treatment now weighs a healthier 110 pounds, thinks she will get better. What she calls the ''zombie'' feeling has faded. ''One day, I woke up and I felt good,'' she says. ''I eat now. And I go running, five miles a day sometimes. I feel like it's a new world. I still go through moods, but I know how to deal with those moods. I think I have a chance.''  SAMPLE LETTER To the editor: After decades of zero tolerance law enforcement America is experiencing a resurgence in heroin use which crosses gender lines. How will politicians respond? Implement needle exchange programs to stop the spread of HIV perhaps? Legalize marijuana to separate the hard and soft drug markets and thereby close the black market gateway to heroin? Not likely! No doubt tough-on-drugs politicians will seize the opportunity to call for increased drug war funding, despite the obvious failure of past interdiction efforts. Temporarily limiting the amount of heroin on the streets might do more harm than good. By decreasing supply while demand remains constant, America's fledgling addicts will soon find the price of heroin soaring. Those already hooked will inevitably step up criminal activity in order to feed their habits. While males are more prone to violent crime, female addicts may fall victim to prostitution. The resulting nationwide crime wave will have more to do with application of drug laws then the medical condition the addicts suffer from. Just as alcohol prohibition failed, the drug war has failed to prevent drug use, but it has fostered a great deal of unnecessary crime and violence. Am I suggesting that heroin be legalized and sold in convenience stores? Contrary to what zero tolerance proponents would have Americans believe, there is a middle ground between all out legalization and drug prohibition. By registering heroin addicts and providing them with standardized doses in a treatment setting, the public health problems associated with heroin use could very well be eliminated. More important, organized crime would lose an important client base. This would render illegal heroin trafficking unprofitable and spare future generations the horror of heroin addiction. Robert Sharpe IMPORTANT: Always include your address and telephone number Please note: If you choose to use this letter as a model please modify it at least somewhat so that the paper does not receive numerous copies of the same letter and so that the original author receives credit for his/her work. ADDITIONAL INFO to help you in your letter writing efforts 3 Tips for Letter Writers: Letter Writers Style Guide:  TO SUBSCRIBE, DONATE, VOLUNTEER TO HELP, OR UPDATE YOUR EMAIL SEE: TO UNSUBSCRIBE SEE: Prepared by Stephen Young Focus Alert Specialist IMPORTANT NOTE: USA Today has circulation of more than 2 million readers. The largest in the U.S. A published LTE of 250 words in this publication has an ad value of more than $7,500.00. Please Just DO It! Write Away.CannabisNews DrugSense, MapInc. & Heroin Articles & Archives:
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