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Here's how Obama's fight against heroin impacts Southern California




Drug treatment experts and public health officials said they see an increase in heroin use that is accompanying a rise in prescription opioid abuse by young people.
Drug treatment experts and public health officials said they see an increase in heroin use that is accompanying a rise in prescription opioid abuse by young people.
Daniel Anderson/California Watch

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The Obama administration is emphasizing treatment in a bid to staunch the nation's rising heroin epidemic. The national Drug Control Policy announced on Monday a new $13.4-million funding plan. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths from heroin overdoses have quadrupled over the past decade.

It's the Obama administration's latest strategy in the war on drugs, said journalist Sam Quinones, author of the book Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic.

How funding the fight on heroin impacts Southern California

In terms of heroin use, Quinones says Southern California is better off than other parts of the West Coast. While Southern California's "heroin belt" includes places like Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks and Orange County, other cities like Portland, Oregon, are in worse shape.

"Portland has a very bad problem," Quinones said. "Los Angeles has a ... it's hard to say ... a perhaps slightly less bad problem than Portland does per capita, but it doesn't seem like we're getting much money in out in our neck of the woods."

Most of the money is slated to go to other portions of the nation, like Appalachia, which Quinones describes as "ravaged" by the drug.

"Appalachia is in serious trouble," he said. "It does seem like, though, that this is money going to another part of the country."

Prevention, treatment are big parts of the plan

The new plan seems to signify a shift in focus in the war on drugs -- from punishment to prevention.

"Opiate addiction, we're finding, is very, very different from addiction to other things, and what recovery involves is -- frequently -- relapse. So you fail several times," Quinones said. "So the idea is to look for ways of funding more treatment, because treatment with this addiction is crucial, and it's very long-term, and it's expensive."

While the new money helps, Quinones thinks that local officials are ultimately the best resources for solutions.

"There's a lot of teamwork that I think is very effective, but I do believe that the answers are frequently at the local level. Finding new treatment beds, finding new ways of stopping the thing before it starts, talking individually with doctors -- this is where this stuff really has to happen."

To listen to the full interview, click on the blue audio player above.