Study: Heroin use in San Diego County on rise

Users say heroin is 'easy to find'

SAN DIEGO - San Diego was once known to have some of the lowest heroin-use rates in the nation, but that is quickly changing.

On Thursday, Alexander Guerra and Noelle Ingrao were arraigned in downtown court on charges of heroin possession with the intent to distribute. San Diego State police arrested the pair on Alvarado Road near the campus. Not guilty pleas were entered on their behalf.

If what they did may not grab your attention, perhaps the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman did. On Feb. 2, Hoffman was found dead in New York of an overdose of heroin -- just three days before Guerra and Ingrao's arrests.

"It's a lot more prevalent and it's coming to San Diego by ways of several different means," said Kristin Steele, Psy.D. of Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital. "And it's being infiltrated in that young population, unfortunately."

According to a recent San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) study, heroin use has grown in popularity in San Diego County, which historically had low rates compared to other parts of the nation.

Twenty-six percent of adults arrested in 2012 reported trying heroin, compared to 17 percent of adults arrested in 2002.

More than three-quarters of individuals in the study -- or 79 percent -- who used heroin in the past year reported it was "very easy" or "easy" to get.

"At any given time, we have anywhere from a third to two-thirds of our population are seeking treatment for heroin," Steele added.

Steele has a message to those are approached with heroin to start: "It's just not worth it. One time can be too much. I mean it really is. It's one of those drugs."

Additionally, the San Diego County Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force says between 2007 and 2012, the number of heroin seizures at our county's border checkpoints skyrocketed from 111 to 470.

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