Fairfax Co. taking steps to fight rise in heroin addiction

FAIRFAX, Va. — Drugs are tearing hearts out across our region, and as the number of heroin overdoses continues to rise, Fairfax County is trying to educate people about what can be done to help combat the trend.

The Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services is working to raise awareness of the signs of addiction and ways to cut down on the risk.

Prevention Manager Jesse Ellis says heroin differs from many other drugs because addiction can begin on the street or with a valid prescription for opioid painkillers.

“We’re seeing it throughout the county. This has been a key component of this issue nationwide that it’s affecting all communities and all populations,” he says.

The county offers some resources and training online; recommendations include getting rid of any extra painkillers immediately, even if a drug take-back day at a police station is not scheduled for a few months.

“[We’re] making sure that people are aware [that] when you’re done using them, how can you get rid of them. It’s not a good idea, it’s not safe, to leave them in your medicine cabinet ‘just in case.’ That can be how addiction begins, [or] somebody else who is addicted could easily find them there,” Ellis says.

He recommends diluting the pills with coffee grounds or kitty litter in a sealed container or trash bag and simply throwing that container out with the regular trash.

National data show that prescription painkiller prescriptions and overdoses have leveled off nationwide in the past few years, but heroin deaths continue to rise.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working on additional prescription guidelines that it hopes could help further limit overdose deaths.

Fairfax County is also trying to increase access to treatment, with steps including a diversion initiative for people arrested for drug use.

“This is not a problem we’re going to arrest our way out of; it is a problem that we’ll need to treat our way out of,” Ellis says.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up