Taking on Heroin

Posted on Updated on

Prescott, AZ – A community sym140583aposium at the Heights Church in Prescott on Tuesday, Jan. 13, broke down a message that has been increasingly voiced by authorities for the last few years: heroin use and abuse is on a noticeable rise throughout Arizona, with Yavapai County as no exception.

The Yavapai County Substance Abuse Coalition, MATForce, hosted the public forum and brought in four panelists to speak and answer questions.

“We can’t always be out there looking, but we could find heroin everyday in Yavapai County if we wanted to,” said Dan Raiss, Commander of Partners Against Narcotics Trafficking (PANT) and one of the four panelists.

The multi-agency drug enforcement task force headed by Raiss began tracking heroin quantity, cost and overdosing in 2012 within Yavapai County when they began recognizing there is a real problem.

“Although we don’t have statistics on it, 2011 was a particularly bad year,” Raiss said.

Forty people are recorded to have died from heroin overdoses in Yavapai County since 2009, according to discharge data from the Arizona Department of Health Services’ Bureau of Public Health.

The most affected population is shown to be young adults between the ages of 21 and 23.

Hosts of the forum screened a television broadcasting aired that night called Hooked: Tracking Heroin’s Hold on Arizona.

The price of heroin has doubled within Yavapai County recently, going from “… about $100 per gram to about $200 per gram,” Raiss said.

This jump in cost may be due to supply and demand, according to Raiss. The supply could be down due to enforcement seizures–causing people to pay more to get what’s left–or demand could be high enough that the regular supply to the area is limited, driving the price up.

“We can’t say what the reason is for sure,” Raiss said.

Heroin abides by the tolerance rule, according to Raiss. The more one uses, the more required to get the same high the next time.

Despite this local cost increase, heroin is commonly cheap and easy to acquire, according to Dr. Robert Ashby, a director of medicine at a detox center in Prescott and one of the other panelists.

“It’s easier for kids to get heroin than it is for them to get a six-pack of beer, and sometimes cheaper,” Ashby said.

One dosage (called a point) ranges from about $10 to $15. There are ten points in one gram of heroin.

A typical heroin user will go through about a quarter of a gram to a whole gram in one day depending on their tolerance and level of addiction.

The tri-city area is a well-known rehabilitation mecca for those seeking treatment, a fact that unsettles many community members and raises questions.

“I’m going to say something that will shake up this symposium,” said Rob Pinchawsky, a former law enforcement volunteer speaking from the audience. “It’s controversial, but there seems to be a schizophrenic duality to this problem. On one hand there are a lot of people trying to fight this epidemic and treat the addicted, but then I believe there is a vested interest within the medical field and by those running detox centers to preserving the addiction industry so every one can continue to make money from it.”

A doctor in psychology and one of the panelists, Janet Rosenberg, quickly responded to the accusation.

“I am not in this profession to make money,” Rosenberg said. “I’m in it because I care about people.”

Prescott Valley Police Chief Bryan Jarrell followed up on this comment, saying he understands Pinchawsky’s concern, but it is a potential problem throughout the medical industry and country pertaining to a wide array of issues.

“There are always going to be predators looking to make profit over someone else’s misery,” Jarrell said. “Of course, I wish they would just go away, but it’s unfortunately not that simple.”

Daniel Diederich, the fourth panelist, is a recovering heroin addict who’s been sober for about one year. He’s been in and out of prison most of his life, but now works for the treatment center in Prescott that got him clean in the first place.

He believes treatment is the only way for addicts to clean up and that prison is not the answer.

“Prison just makes it worse,” Diederich said. “Meth is what got me into prison, but heroin was my drug of choice in prison.”

It takes three convictions before someone can be incarcerated for drug possession and use. Any other charges in tandem with the drug use, however–such as theft and assault– can override this three strike rule.

Everyone on the panel and in the audience seemed to agree: we need to be educating children about the dangers of addiction as early as grade school.

Some of that education can come from teachers, but what really makes the difference is parental guidance.

“Parents commonly talk to their children about drugs after the kids have already begun to experiment with drugs, which is not the way to go,” Rosenberg said.

The average age for first trying marijuana is 11, according to Ashby. The younger the child is when exposed to any drug, the more addicting it is and the more damaging it is to the developing brain.

This epidemic is a serious matter concerning our future leaders, Raiss said.

“As we get older, who is going to take care of us and become our society’s doctors, lawyers and firemen?” Raiss said. “We need to do something about this now before it is too late.”

Surviving PTSD: A Vietnam Veteran’s Insight on His Lifelong Struggle and the Struggle of Younger Soldiers

Posted on Updated on

Robert Lynn Pedigo has struggled with PTSD for 45 years now.

He served in the Vietnam War as a combat engineer in 1970.

He has found ways to cope with the bulk of his symptoms, but he still struggles with it even today.

“It’s not simply something that just goes away,” Pedigo said.

Pedigo explains some of what he went through over the years and how he has tried helping the younger men coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan with their mental anguish.

Emotional Tales from a Vietnam Veteran: Part 2 (The Anti-Tank Mine)

Posted on Updated on

Robert Lynn Pedigo served as a lieutenant combat engineer during the Vietnam War in 1970.

He and his troop of 20 men were assigned the mission to clear the jungle of all foliage and aerial view obstruction within designated areas.

They accomplished this using bulldozers, essentially tearing down everything and anything that crossed their path.

Being in the front line of uncleared territory, they regularly set off booby traps and explosives. Only seven of his 20 men made it out of Vietnam without being medically evacuated.

This story is the second of a short series told by Mr. Pedigo about some of the more traumatic experiences he encountered in the field and how they affected him.

Emotional Tales from a Vietnam Veteran: Part 1 (The Mango Grove)

Posted on Updated on

Robert Lynn Pedigo served as a lieutenant combat engineer during the Vietnam War in 1970.

He and his troop of 20 men were assigned the mission to clear the jungle of all foliage and aerial view obstruction within designated areas.

They accomplished this using bulldozers, tearing down everything and anything that crossed their path.

Being in the front line of uncleared territory, they regularly set off booby traps and explosives. Only seven of his 20 men made it out of Vietnam without being medically evacuated.

This story is the first of a short series told by Mr. Pedigo about some of the more traumatic experiences he encountered in the field and how they affected him.

Water: from right to privilege

Posted on Updated on

Potable water is the most precious commodity on our planet.   It is necessary for survival and has no substitute, yet it is becoming more and more difficult to obtain.

The human population has been growing at an astonishing rate since the start of the industrial revolution in the 18th century. In 1800, there were roughly 1 billion people, according to the Population Reference Bureau. By 1950, the world had 2.5 billion; and in 2005 there were 6.5 billion.  We are now sitting at around 7 billion people and by 2050, that number is expected to be more than 9 billion.

As we continue to reproduce so quickly, Earth’s natural resources, especially clean water sources, are progressively being consumed and polluted at an unsustainable rate.  Many rivers can barely reach the sea any longer due to heavy allocation. Groundwater throughout most of the world is being drawn much faster than it can naturally be replenished. Fresh water sources that would normally be safe to use for human consumption have become so contaminated that they are considered a health hazard unless heavily treated.  The solutions to all of these problems take time and money, both of which many people are hard pressed to give.

Progress in fighting this trend has been made, however, through the efforts of public and private organizations; yet there are still many people who struggle to slake their thirst on a daily basis due to clean water’s limited supply and ever growing demand.

Seven hundred and eighty million people in the world (11 percent of the world’s population) lack access to “improved drinking water sources,” according to a recent study done by The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and The World Health Organization. These sources consist of public standpipes, direct household connections, sheltered wells, protected springs and rainwater collectors that “…by the nature of their construction, are protected from outside contamination, particularly fecal matter”. Although this number is still very high, it has dropped drastically from the estimated 2.8 billion people in 1990 due to the efforts of those taking the initiative to combat our planet’s water crises.

Water supply and sanitation interventions have shown to be cost effective in just about any region of the world. In a study taken by the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute in which a large sampling of such interventions were looked at, for every 1 U.S. dollar expended, the economic benefits produced ranged from 5 U.S. dollars to 46 U.S. dollars.

The vast majority of this economic benefit (80 percent) was shown to derive from the amount of time individuals were saved by having better access to water and sanitation services. Rather than spend the majority of their day fetching bacteria infested water on foot from long distances, men, women and children with convenient access to fresh water can instead use that time to generate some sort of income, take care of their family, or attend school. This formula only becomes increasingly successful as families are provided with other conveniences, such as simpler ways to sanitize their water as opposed to boiling it and designated waste removal systems.

When these steps are taken, not only is economic production boosted, but also lives are saved. Diarrhea is the second leading cause of death for children under the age of five, according to UNICEF and the World Health Organization. This accounts for the deaths of about 1.5 million children each year.

If the world’s population continues to grow at the rate it is and drastic measures aren’t taken to alter the way much of us in the world collect and use water, then issues with obtaining enough clean water will undoubtedly become a problem for not only developing countries, but developed countries as well. Water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.  By 2030, if climate change patterns persist, as much as half of the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress.

Access to clean water in world

Click here to view a map of countries and their access to clean water and sanitation









Food trucks take Tucson by storm

Video Posted on Updated on

Food vending is on the rise in Tucson and it’s coming on wheels.

Food trucks are making a move right now and it’s more organized than one would think.

Instead of competing with one another, many food trucks have decided to work together in order to promote their movement.

They are doing this by holding food truck roundups.

A time and place are determined; the word is put out through social media and a communal website (tucsonfoodtruckroundup.com); and the participating food trucks meet up and sell food.

This has been a successful business strategy that looks to be evolving at a tremendous rate.

Best in show

Video Posted on

Every year, Horse Shows In The Sun (HITS) hosts the Arizona Winter Circuit horse show.

During the winter season, thousands of riders from throughout the United States as well as from neighboring countries come to the Southwest U.S. in order to revel in the sun and to compete for money and glory.

HITS Arizona Winter Circuit is one of Arizona’s premier horse shows, featuring six weeks of competition at the Pima County Fairgrounds.

Although the exhibitors must pay an entry fee, admission is free for spectators.

Cleaning out the garage

Video Posted on

For the 16th year in a row, Summit Hut Hiking Camping and Travel hosted their annual Gear Swap Meet on Sunday, February 24. Advertising to the community through online event pages, Summit Hut opened up their Wetmore location in Tucson for anyone who wished to get rid of their spare outdoor equipment. Hundreds of people ranging from lifelong nature enthusiasts to first time campers participated in the event.