Heroin use poses a growing threat
Any hopes that the re-emergence of heroin was a passing phase seem to be fading fast. A recent report from Huntington Police Chief Skip Holbrook showed that his department seized 5,500 grams of the dangerous street drug in 2013, more that double the amount confiscated the year before. News reports from around the country show our area is certainly not alone, and heroin has become a common fixture on the streets of Middle America. The recent death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman from an apparent overdose underscores that the problem has returned to urban areas, too, and can touch all walks of life. As has often been reported in the past few years, heroin’s return is the result of the even-larger problem of prescription drug abuse. The Huntington Police Department Special Investigations Bureau confiscated 17,343 doses of pharmaceutical drugs that were being used or sold illegally in 2013, up from 10,066 in 2012. Meanwhile, cocaine — which was the dominant problem a decade ago — is on the decline.
But heroin continues to grow as an alternative to the powerful opiate painkillers, because it is generally cheaper and often more readily available. The police report noted that oxycodone pills can sell for $80$100 each, and a similar dose of heroin might cost $25.
City officials are looking for ways to increase police staffing to help deal with the rising drug problems, and for good reason. Whether it is heroin or pain pills, addiction drives property crimes, from household and auto break-ins to metal thefts.
But those initiatives need to be accompanied by greater treatment and prevention efforts, because as the heroin trend shows, where there is a demand, dealers will find a drug to meet it.