Heroin in Woodbridge: A Growing Epidemic
Heroin and opioid abuse has become an epidemic in many communities across the country, including right here in Woodbridge. Our town has seen heroin overdoses and deaths skyrocket over the past decade. It’s a complex issue with many factors driving this crisis.
Understanding the Rise of Heroin Abuse
Many folks struggling with heroin addiction didn’t start with heroin. They often began by using prescription opioid painkillers like OxyContin or Vicodin. These are medicines often prescribed for pain relief after an injury or surgery. Some people enjoy the feeling these drugs give them and begin taking more than prescribed. Over time, they can become dependent or addicted.
When their prescription runs out or becomes too expensive, some switch to heroin because it provides a similar high at a cheaper price. Heroin is an illegal opioid that is often mixed with other dangerous chemicals like fentanyl. This makes it even more deadly.
“Studies have shown that nearly 1-in-4 teenagers report taking a prescription drug (at least once in their life) that was not prescribed by a doctor,” said Woodbridge Police Director Robert Hubner.
The Rising Body Count
The number of overdoses and deaths related to heroin and other opioids has risen sharply in Woodbridge over the past decade:
- In 2013, there were 741 opioid overdose deaths statewide.
- In 2016, there were 19 fatal heroin overdoses in Woodbridge – the deadliest year on record for our town. Most victims were in their 20s and 30s.
- In 2017, there were 51 Narcan deployments by Woodbridge police to reverse overdoses and save lives.
“I’ve been at far too many wakes of overdose victims,” said Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac. “We need to treat this disease like we treat any disease.”
Many overdose deaths happen when people mix opioids like heroin with other substances, especially fentanyl. Fentanyl is an extremely potent synthetic opioid that is often added to street heroin. Just a tiny amount can be lethal.
Taking Action Against the Epidemic
Our community is coming together to address this growing public health crisis. We need compassion, education, treatment, and prevention to turn the tide.
Back in 2015, Woodbridge police officers began carrying Narcan nasal spray. Narcan can rapidly reverse an opioid overdose and save lives. When police administer Narcan and revive someone, they alert health authorities to connect that person to support services.
“We care more about saving a life than minor drug violations!” said Police Director Robert Hubner. “You will not be charged or arrested for calling 911 to report an overdose.”
In 2016, Woodbridge also launched a Peer Recovery Coach program to provide extra support for overdose survivors. Peer coaches are people in recovery themselves who can offer guidance, resources, and encouragement to others struggling with addiction. Studies show peer support significantly improves outcomes.
Woodbridge police have also cracked down on dealers selling dangerous opioid drugs illegally on our streets. In 2020, one major heroin and fentanyl supplier was sentenced to over 7 years in prison for his role in a fatal overdose. Police warn that dealers are mixing fentanyl with heroin, meth, and cocaine – putting users at extreme risk.
Signs of Opioid Abuse
It’s important for families to recognize warning signs of opioid abuse early on. Some red flags include:
- Changes in behavior or declining performance at work or school
- Lack of interest in self-care or hygiene
- Asking for money frequently
- Disappearing for long periods of time
- Withdrawal from friends and family
If you observe these behaviors in a loved one, don’t ignore them. Reach out and offer help compassionately. Listen without judgment. Let them know treatment options are available when they are ready.
Finding Help for Opioid Addiction
Quitting heroin or prescription opioids is extremely difficult due to severe withdrawal symptoms. Fortunately, we have medication-assisted treatment options that can reduce cravings and withdrawal during detox. These evidence-based treatments combined with counseling give people the best chance of overcoming opioid addiction for good.
Woodbridge offers outpatient medication-assisted treatment at locations like BrightView Health. Their caring staff will assess your situation and create a personalized recovery plan that fits your needs.
If you or someone you love is struggling with opioid abuse, reach out today. With compassion and access to treatment, recovery is possible.
Let’s continue to support each other with compassion. Together, we can overcome this crisis in our community.