Seemingly overlooked, however, are the thousands of lives heroin destroys on a yearly basis across the United States and the fact that number has been on the rise in many places.
For example, heroin overdose deaths in New Hampshire in 2013 nearly doubled – from 37 in 2012 to 63. That last number is likely to rise as 30 to 40 drug deaths still are pending a final ruling by the state medical examiner.
In suburban Chicago, DuPage County averaged one heroin death every eight days – seventy-two deaths over a period of 20 months.
"Heroin knows no boundaries," DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin said in September. "It's not just teens. It's adults, professionals. We've seen overdose victims from 15 to 64 years old. Every socioeconomic area of the community is affected by heroin."
In New Jersey, the problem has been widespread. Recently, Patch ranked the top 20 communities with the worst heroin problem.
- Newark, New Jersey had 1,827 reported heroin abuse cases in 2012.
- Jersey City had 1,127 reported abuse cases, including the arrest of a 15-year-old with 59 bags of suspected heroin.
- Brick, once considered one of the nation's safest communities, had 550 reported cases of abuse. In July 2011, one drug investigation led to the seizure of 250 bags of heroin.
"To me, all heroin is poison," said Al Della Fave, a career law enforcement officer who is now spokesman for the Ocean County Prosecutors Office in New Jersey. "Purity levels are at an all-time high."
One question is how to deal with such drug scourges. Is it a law enforcement issue? A health care crisis? Are the nation's drug laws aligned in such a way as to adequately deal with such issues?
Share your thoughts in our comment section.
Tony Schinella, Daniel Nee, Tom Davis and Karen Chadra contributed to this report.