Buffalo, NY (WBEN) - Western New York is becoming the opioid capital of the United States.
That's what Director of Addiction Services at Lake Shore Behavioral Health Elizabeth Woike-Ganga says. "Throughout the country, but particularly here in Western New York and Erie County in the past few years it's exploded."
Woike-Ganga says that in contrast to drug booms in previous decades, heroin has become much less of an urban problem, and more of a suburban one. She says that young adults seem to be getting hooked on heroin after becoming addicted to prescription painkillers. When the pain pills become too expensive or too hard to access, they turn to heroin, which has become a cheaper alternative.
While heroin use has boomed, Woike-Ganga says there is hope that the problem can be combated. Unlike with other drugs such as cocaine, there are medications that can help people through the recovery process.
"A lot of people can get better by just going to outpatient treatment three or four times a week. They can be taking one of these medications that really help with the cravings, and have a social support network that can help them keep from using," Woike-Ganga said.
Woike-Ganga says that she is not sure why there has been a boom in the use of opioids, but the theory is that the ease of accessibility to painkillers provided a gateway to heroin, while in years past heroin was often the starting point.