Police: Heroin has hit the area “by storm,” causing increased amount of overdose deaths

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT)-- The latest trend in Tennessee Valley drug trade has Madison-Morgan Strategic Counterdrug Team officers on alert.

They tell WHNT News 19 that heroin is moving in, and on the streets it has overtaken prescription pills and cocaine in popularity.  They explain that heroin is a dangerous drug, being traded into our area through Birmingham and Atlanta. And it's proving to be deadly.

"What we have seen is as they have clamped down on prescription medication, folks are now switching to heroin," commented Lieutenant Ken Brooks with the Huntsville Police Department. He explained that the price of pills on the street has also gone up, causing many people to seek alternate forms of opiates.

"They can now get a much better high with heroin, for much less cost," he summarized.

He says the proof that heroin is coming back is in the numbers:

  • In 2012, STAC officers seized little more than 8 grams of heroin
  • In 2013  STAC team officers seized 795 grams
  • In 2014, STAC team officers seized 632 grams
  • In just the first three months of 2015, STAC team officers seized 1426 grams

"It has pretty much hit us by storm now," said Lt. Brooks. "But we saw it coming."

HEMSI officials see other symptoms of the drug's increasing presence in the area.

"We have noticed that we are receiving more calls for overdoses, and they seem to be more severe," said Don Webster, Chief Operating Officer of HEMSI. "This has long-term lasting effects that will take your life."

"You don't know the purity level of it," added Lt. Brooks. "You don't know what it's mixed with, you don't know what it's coming from."

He said some forms of the drug that people are shooting up are 98% pure. Even for a person with a high tolerance, a dose that pure could cause their body to overload on the drug and react poorly, from general discomfort to cardiac arrest, even death by overdose.

Law enforcement and EMS officials agree the point they really want to drive home: this isn't going to get better without effort from everyone.

"It's up to the community to decide this is not acceptable in our community. They're the ones who make the decision that this is either going to overtake our community, or we're going to do something about it," said Lt. Brooks.

Webster said the best way to fight heroin abuse is for community members to educate themselves about the signs of addiction and inform their families, along with continuing to call tips to the STAC team.