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Heroin Use Higher in New Jersey's Suburbs, Rural Areas

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Johnston has tracked drug use for the past 25 years among adolescents, college students, and young adults across the country, Johnston tells WebMD.

"We're quite good at looking at the nation as a whole," says Johnston. "We don't show any change since 1995 in heroin use in young adults -- 19- to 29-year-olds. But our data is of high school graduates -- some 85% of the population. The other 15% may be the heavier heroin users. Our absolute estimates are undoubtedly low, but I think we're picking up the trends. And I don't see any trends of that sort."

Another major source -- the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse -- also shows no increase in heroin use among the 18 to 25 age group, says Johnston. "In fact, they show a decrease in that population."

Main message from her study, says Kline: "The need for a redirection of prevention efforts," she tells WebMD. "We have been placing a lot of preventive dollars for HIV/AIDS into the urban areas and not so much into the suburbs."

Also, the message needs to target younger kids, says Howard Simon, spokesperson for Partnership for a Drug-Free America. "If you're talking about 18- to 25-year-olds, you're not talking about new drug users. They've probably been using for a while. We like to look at the next group coming up, the 12- to 17-year-olds."

Too true, says Maggie Jenkins, director of Mainstream Kansas City Inc., a drug treatment facility for women in Johnson County, Kan.

"I've had 13-, 14-, 15-year-old girls with [skin and muscle] infection ... from a dirty needle," Jenkins tells WebMD. "They have to have the muscle in their arm removed; they go through hell with that. We need to get the message to them better. Kids just haven't gotten the message about sharing dirty needles. They figure if they both use same needle, then it's a clean needle. It's still a dirty needle."

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