If you had asked Rita Nieves 10 years ago if she could have predicted Boston would be plagued by an opiate epidemic, she would have said no.
“Prescription drugs have impacted the city in the last decade,” said Nieves, director of the city’s Addictions Prevention Treatment and Recovery Support Services Bureau. “It’s a constant battle and the drug scene is always changing. As drugs change, the age groups and people who try them also change.”
Since 2003, the heroin admissions rate for people under 30 has shot up 40 percent in Boston, according to the data released Wednesday in a 110-page report by the BPHC and the mayor’s office.
Experts say the battle against drugs will never end.
“I think we are doing a good job, we are certainly doing more than we have ever done in areas of prevention,” said Nieves. “But we will never be done in our work, it will always be about trying to stay current and anticipate what will be next.”
Right now, it’s opiates, according to Peter Collins, director at New Hope TSS in Weymouth.
“Heroin is the primary drug of choice out there without a doubt,” he said.
Collins said in the decade he has been at the facility, heroin use has increased and the age of users has decreased.
“They start with Oxycodone or Oxycontin and develop a habit in their teen years,” he said.
According to Raymond Tamasi, CEO at Gosnold on Cape Cod, more young people are being introduced to those types of drugs at the gateway level instead of nicotine, marijuana and alcohol.
“At some point they often migrate to heroin,” he said, because it’s cheaper.
“Heroin has been one of our major problems for a long time,” agreed Nieves.
Follow Steve Annear on Twitter @steveannear.