From Representative Dave Heaton

Written by Theresa Rose on February 21, 2017


February 20, 2017

Title:  Heroin Epidemic is Here


In the past, Iowa has had an issue with illegal drugs.  Iowa authorities have been battling the distribution and use of meth for the last decade.  Our state had active meth labs scattered across the state, mostly in southern rural Iowa.

This drug affected its victims horribly.  People became addicted; many became psychotic, and in some instances lost their teeth.  People’s lives were ruined and the road back to recovery was long and difficult. Inpatient treatment could take up to six months or more.

Iowa responded by limiting access to pseudo-ephedrine (cold medicines), a key ingredient in the making of meth.  Propane tanks found on our farms and ag distributors were locked down to discourage access to propane gas, another critical ingredient.  Drug enforcement units were formed to seek out the manufacturers and distributors of this horrible drug, sending those found guilty to long prison terms.


Just when we thought we were gaining on the war against meth, a new epidemic is beginning in our state.  RX pain killers and a heroin epidemic are advancing across our state.  Here are some national headlines:

  Drug Overdose – 2016:  Opioids, including heroin – is the leading cause of accidental death in America, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine;   Woman who trafficked daughter for heroin sentenced to 51 years to life:    10 hours, 14 overdoses in Akron, Ohio;     Heroin suspected in 20 Milwaukee deaths in 2 weeks;   Bad batch of heroin believed to be source of 14 overdoses;   Study:  Opioid epidemic increasingly reaching new born babies. 

Last week we had a police detective from Cedar Rapids make a presentation of the drug problems they are having in Cedar Rapids.  These national headlines could also apply to our second largest city, including Iowa City.  He gave us some important statistics that show just how bad the rise of the use of heroin is.  From 2010 to 2014 we have seen a 248 percent increase in the known use of heroine. Nationally, drug poisoning deaths involving opioid analgesic have reached 19,000 deaths a year.  Heroin contributes to 4,000 deaths a year.  These are 2014 statistics and one can only imagine how much higher they are today.    Non-Hispanic young adults 18 to 44, have the highest number of deaths per 100,000.  When compared to the different regions of the United States, the Midwest has the highest heroin death rate with the northeast following close behind.


Here are some Linn County statistics:  In 2015, there were 61 overdose calls involving heroin; there were 20 opioid deaths that occurred in Cedar Rapids, and 330 heroin opioid hospital admissions.  In 2016, there were 27 opioid deaths and 874 heroin opioid hospital admissions.  In one year, hospitalizations more than doubled, indicating that the epidemic had arrived in Cedar Rapids.

How does a person become addicted to opioids and heroin?  It usually starts with a legitimate injury; a broken bone, a sore back, a work related injury; maybe the person has had orthopedic surgery like a new knee, hip or shoulder replacement.  We all know that acute pain is experienced after these treatments and the physician will prescribe opioid pain killers to deal with your pain.  These are usually in the form of hydrocodones or oxycodones.

Depending upon the dosage prescribed, a person can become addicted after taking those medications for more than two weeks.

When the prescription runs out and addiction has set in, the person experiences withdrawal symptoms as they have finished their prescription.  It is no longer about getting high; it is about not getting sick.  Withdrawal symptoms include sweats, chills, diarrhea, vomiting, insomnia, restlessness, tremors, bone pain and seizures.

In desperation, the patient could return to the physician and request additional medication to deal with his withdrawal symptoms.  The patient has established a drug habit and faces a choice; either deal with his or her withdrawal through treatment or go to the street and buy drugs illegally.

What is the cost of addiction?  Heroin typically costs about $20 to $30 per .1 gram.  A daily user will use at least .2 to .4 gram of heroin ($50 to $100) per day and sometimes up to $150 to $200 per day.  This will depend on the purity of the heroin purchased (lower purity, may need to use/spend more for the same effect).  Withdrawals may occur every six to eight hours, which may necessitate multiple purchases in a day.   Dealer availability impacts the ability to purchase.  So a  $100 to $200 per day habit equals $700 to $1400 spent per week just on heroin.  Over $36,000 (upwards of $70,000) spent per year to feed the addiction.

Where does the money come from?  Oftentimes the user will have a regular job with a paycheck.  (this helps hide addiction)  Once the addiction progresses to daily use, maintaining a job becomes more difficult.  Remember, heroin addiction does not care when bank accounts are depleted.  The person then turns to crime to satisfy his addiction.

This is a first installment describing the opioid epidemic that is spreading across Iowa.  In the coming weeks, I will describe what we are trying to do to deal with it, and how we will provide treatment for those who have become enslaved by these terrible drugs.  Bottom line  –  it is all about saving lives.

Visitors to the capitol last week were:  President Steve Titus and Meg Richtman from Iowa Wesleyan University.  Dr. Tiffany Huapert of Henry County Health Center.

If you have any issues or concerns, please contact me. Be sure to include your name and address with any communication to my office.



Dave Heaton, State Representative,

State House, Des Moines, Iowa 50319

Phone: 515-281-7327~Fax: 515-281-6958


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