In Jefferson County, heroin abuse rose dramatically in 2014. The county coroner attributed more than 140 deaths to heroin. Law enforcement and the state have been rushing to respond. Last year, the state legislature approved access to a heroin antidote: naloxone, more commonly known as narcan. If used properly, naloxone can reverse the effects of a heroin overdose. Public health officials in Alabama are trying raise awareness and get the potentially life-saving drug to the people who need it most.
Heroin abuse continues to rise nationally and in Alabama, leaving more people searching for ways to kick addiction. Families ask friends, professionals and scour the Internet looking for the best, and most affordable, treatment for their loved one. But the financial burdens can be crippling, sometimes thousands upon thousands of dollars.
Heroin overdose deaths are on the rise nationally. In Jefferson County, deaths increased by more than 140 percent in 2014. The numbers were shocking: Heroin caused or contributed to 144 deaths in 2014. Area law enforcement responded by increasing efforts to get traffickers and drugs off the streets, especially in Birmingham.
Heroin use has exploded in Alabama, and heroin-related deaths more than doubled in Jefferson County last year. That means more and more relatives have to cope with the mistrust, deception and shame that come with addiction. Despite the stigma, parents and families are reaching out for help.
Injection drug use is on the rise around the country, feeding an increase in cases of the blood-borne liver disease Hepatitis C. The Centers for Disease control says that, nationally, Hepatitis C infections rose 150 percent in the last 3 years. But the spread of the disease in Alabama is hard to measure. Doctors and health care officials are trying new ways to determine the true spread of the disease here in Alabama -- doctors like Jim Galbraith, an emergency room physician at UAB.
Police and public health leaders in Alabama are trying to deal with a spike in heroin use in recent years. Naloxone -- or narcan -- is a drug that, when administered correctly, can reverse the effects of a heroin overdose. A bill passed the Alabama Legislature this week that would allow first responders to give narcan to someone dying from an overdose. But some don't think the bill goes far enough. UAB researchers are working on a crowd-funded study that puts narcan directly in the hands of users' and family and friends.
Heroin related deaths more than doubled last year in Jefferson county. All this week, WBHM has explored Alabama's heroin problem. With a rise in use of the drug, police report more heroin arrests, and judges say their dockets are filling up with cases. According to Birmingham's drug court, eight out of ten cases are for heroin. We conclude our series with a look at the courts. Ashley Cleek followed one addict into the criminal justice system to see what works and what doesn't.
With heroin use increasing in Alabama the last few years, public health leaders are looking for ways to reduce heroin overdose deaths. Naloxone could be part of it. The drug, more commonly known as Narcan, can reverse the effects of a heroin overdose if administered to a user in time. It's not addictive nor does it produce a high. State Representative Allen Treadaway (R-Morris) refers to it as a miracle drug. Treadaway is also a Birmingham police captain and he's introduced HB 208 in the Alabama legislature to expand access to Naloxone.
As heroin use increases in North Central Alabama, law enforcement is taking a hard look at how to stop the supply, and handle heroin dealers and users. But beyond arresting dealers, they're also often the first on the scene of heroin overdoses. Les Lovoy reports on how law enforcement officials are juggling drug enforcement and saving lives.
In Part One of WBHM's five-part series, we heard about how and why heroin use is on the rise in Alabama. Now in Part Two, education reporter Dan Carsen looks at how some young people are trying to slow its spread in their schools. The story starts with a confession in a small office just outside downtown Birmingham.
Heroin In Alabama
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