(St.Joseph,MO) As prescription drug monitoring programs cut down the availability of prescription opioids across the country, Buchanan County is seeing a rise in heroin use.
Captain Shawn Collie, Commander of the Buchanan County Drug Strike Force said the opioid epidemic impacts people from all walks of life.
"The opiate epidemic that we're seeing is not just contained to the lower class or a certain part of town based on socioeconomics. It's affected anybody from the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich,” Collie said.
A report from the American Action Forum said despite the decrease in the availability of prescription opioids, the annual growth rate of all opioid-involved overdose fatalities rose from 9.1 percent before 2010 to 12.3 percent after 2010.
After communities started tracking and reducing the number of prescription opioids through drug monitoring programs, pills were slowly being replaced with something more readily available.
"It's the whole supply and demand and the pills had started becoming so expensive that we saw people switching from the pills, the opiates over to heroin,” Collie said.
Powder and black tar heroin are starting to be more prevalent in northwest Missouri.
"It's a lot cheaper than the pills. It's at the point now where the people from the larger cities that have that heroin supply have come to our area and basically set up,” Collie said.
Collie said many heroin dealers from larger cities are moving into St. Joseph to fill the void left by the lack of prescription pills.
"The pills had really taken off, as far as the number of cases had increased drastically.Here over the last six months to a year, that has started to slow down a little bit, but the heroin, the black tar and the powdered heroin has increased past the pills,” Collie said.
While heroin use is on the rise, users are also turing to synthetic opioids like fentanyl to get high.According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 29,406 people died from synthetic opioid overdoses in 2017.
"Now we're seeing fentanyl mixed in with heroin, which is a huge contamination concern,” Collie said.
Collie said locally, seizures of heroin and other opiates are on the rise.
"The heroin or opiate cases have quadrupled,” Collie said.
The increased number of drug cases also puts a financial strain on law enforcement, as they expand typical the drug screening process.
“For probation, parole, for the courts, for law enforcement to do their job, now we are having to buy drug screenings that are 10 panels or higher, which is a lot more money. It puts a financial strain on law enforcement,” Collie said.
If you suspect drug trafficking in your neighborhood, contact the Buchanan County Drug Strike Force at 816-233-3377.