Push to curb heroin, opiate use includes West Memphis

Push to curb heroin, opiate use includes West Memphis

DEA ready to target ‘ deadly cycle’ of increase in drug resurgence

ralphhardin@gmail.com The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is taking action after seeing a massive increase in the use and trafficking of heroin and prescription opiates across the nation. Late last month, West Memphis was named as one of four cities targeted by the DEA for a new effort aimed at stopping the illegal flow of opiate- based drugs.

Heroin has long been considered among the more hard-core drugs used and abused by recreational drug users. Due to its potentially deadly effects, limited availability and high cost, heroin has not, until recently, seen widespread usage in the U.S. However, a recent increase in supply has lowered the cost and that has resulted in a marked increase in use.

According to an article in the Feb. 4 issue of Time magazine, a much cheaper and purer product has turned heroin and other opiates into the drug of choice for many. According to Jack Riley, a Special Agent in charge of the DEA’s Chicago Field Division, the street price of a standard bag of heroin in Chicago is now “$10 for 710 percent purity,” compared to 10 years ago when heroin at “2-3 percent purity [was selling for] $50$150, if you could find it.”

Riley said purity matters because it allows the drug to be taken without a needle. When heroin was cut with so much filler, it required a user to inject it into their body to achieve the desired high. The purer versions currently available can be smoked or snorted, which make them more appealing to teenagers, the college-educated and “people who normally wouldn’t come near it for fear of the needle.”

“That’s why it is spreading,” said Riley.

In addition to heroin, prescription opiates, a family of drugs that includes oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, are also seeing an increase in popularity, particularly among teens.

Awareness of the heroin issue in Arkansas has increased among state law enforcement agencies over the past few years following string of overdoses beginning in 2011, including a 19-year-old Little Rock teen in 2012 and a 25-yearold Cabot man in 2013 — a total of nine opiate-related overdoses in a nine-month period.

West Memphis joins St. Louis, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh as the four cities the DEA will be focusing on over the next several months.

U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-Arkansas) addressed the issued recently following the Senate’s passage of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act.

“Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the country and unfortunately Arkansas is not immune to this problem,” said Boozman.

“Arkansas has implemented measures to combat this problem by decreasing the availability of prescription drugs and properly disposing of expired and unneeded medication through the Arkansas Take Back program … I’m committed to providing Arkansas communities the resources they need to fight this epidemic.”

By Ralph Hardin