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Heroin: Small cities, even rural towns face growing problems

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“We recognize that this is an emerging problem,” says Dianne McDonald, a curriculum director at two Joliet, Ill., high schools. “We want to be proactive.”

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, heroin use in the United States rose 66 percent between 2007 and 2011. The US Drug Enforcement Administration says seizures of heroin have doubled since 2008, and arrests have risen by a third. Most heroin comes from Asia, but more and more is arriving from South America and Mexico.

Although heroin use has been expanding for a decade or more, many communities are just beginning to understand the extent of their own heroin problem. The Dane County Narcotics and Gangs Task Force, which includes personnel in Madison, Wis., reported last year that drug overdoses had risen from 31 in 2007 to 175 in 2011, most due to heroin. In Will County, Ill., just outside Chicago, heroin-related deaths rose from five in 2000 to 53 last year. In Missouri, heroin deaths increased from 69 in 2007 to 244 in 2011 – more than half of them in the age group 15 to 35.

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