Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Editorials

May 27, 2014

A new threat: Heroin cases increasing locally

— — Abuse of prescription pain medication such as hydrocodone and oxycodone has plagued southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia in recent years.

Law enforcement agencies in both states have worked hard to address the problem, and their efforts have met with considerable success. Many “pill mills” where addicts could get the drug of their choice have been shut down, and more drug dealers are off the streets and facing prison time.

Unfortunately, a lack of supply creates a new demand. Addicts abusing hydrocodone and oxycodone still need to feed their terrible cravings, so they turn to other controlled substances for relief. The new drug they are turning to is heroin.

Heroin overdose deaths in West Virginia have jumped from 34 statewide in 2010 to 67 in 2012, according to West Virginia State Police Sgt. J.S. McCarty, who also serves as the coordinator of the Southern Regional Drug and Violent Crime Task Force. The 2013 statistics are expected to be even higher when they are released.

Virginia is also seeing an increase in heroin cases. Much of the drug coming into both states is from outside sources such as Detroit, Columbus or Pittsburgh.

Investigators in both West Virginia and Virginia are working hard to address this new threat in the ongoing effort to stop the illegal use of controlled substances and the crimes they help fuel. Addicts often steal from their own families and commit offenses ranging from forgery and uttering to burglary in order to get the money needed to finance their drug habits.

One thing the authorities are trying to do is educate the public about the dangers of heroin. Since late 2013, the West Virginia State Police has tried to conduct training for public school teachers. McCarty said that current national statistics suggest that the average age when a child will come into contact with an illegal substance is 11.

The public can help by continuing to support these efforts to educate children. Cooperating with police by supplying tips is another way to help. Many drug investigations begin when people notice how a house in their community is the scene of unusual activity such as vehicles arriving and departing both day and night.

The public can be the eyes and ears of their communities.

Heroin is a growing threat for West Virginia and Virginia, but it is a threat that can be addressed. With the public’s cooperation, area law enforcement agencies can combat this threat and keep another controlled substance from getting out of control.

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