Heroin remains plentiful, cheap and deadly

Drug users: Cocaine, crack less available locally

Heroin remains cheap and plentiful but the availability of powdered cocaine and crack is falling in the Dayton region, according to an Ohio survey of drug abuse trends. The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services announced the findings Friday to treatment professionals across the state.

Heroin availability in the state increased between January and June 2014 in six of eight regions, including Dayton, according to the Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring (OSAM) network survey. The Dayton region, which includes Champaign, Clark, Darke, Greene, Miami, Montgomery and Preble counties, was one of only two regions in the state reporting a dip in the availability of cocaine and crack. Users in Columbus, the only other region to see a decrease in cocaine, report the decline is because users are shifting to heroin.

“This latest OSAM report reaffirms the trends we’ve been seeing across the nation and in Ohio for some time, namely that heroin and other opiates remain popular and widely available,” said Eric Wanderslaben, Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services spokesman. “The findings underscore the importance of continuing to work diligently with other state and local partners to promote awareness, prevention education and access to treatment.”

Current and former drug users also say the price of heroin in the Dayton region to be just $5 a capsule, or tenth of a gram — about half the price charged in other parts of the state. The users also told researchers that dealers sometimes supply needles free with purchases and are often given “testers,” or free samples.

Largely anecdotal, data for the report titled “Surveillance of Drug Abuse Trends in the State of Ohio” were collected from 336 active and recovering drug users as well as 117 community professionals. In preparing the results, OSAM regional epidemiologists also looked at information from coroner’s offices, various courts, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and county crime labs.

Community treatment professionals told researchers that all illicit drugs including heroin, marijuana, prescription opioids remain highly available in the Dayton region. Brown and white powdered heroin were most common and observers told epidemiologists that the two along with black tar heroin had surpassed marijuana as the region’s most available drug.

The two-year state budget proposed earlier this week by Gov. John Kasich acknowledged the state’s heroin epidemic by asking lawmakers to spend more on the overdose antidote naloxone and approve funding for specialty drug court dockets and treatment programs.

Though numbers aren’t yet finalized for last year, at least 910 deaths in 2013 were verified to be heroin overdoses, according to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. That number likely exceeds 1,000 due to nonconformity in the way counties reported overdose deaths for the year, according to DeWine’s office.

Participants also described heroin cut with fentanyl, a synthetic opioid which can make a dose many times more potent. Fentanyl was found to be a factor in about 42 percent of 175 overdose deaths from January through August of last year, according to the Montgomery County Coroner’s Office. Both groups of participants also said it was common for an addict in the presence of another experiencing an overdose to not call for help fearing criminal prosecution.

“It’s alarming that some people continue to be hesitant to call for help when someone is overdosing,” said Ann Stevens, public information coordinator for Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services.

In 2013, 226 people died in 2013 from unintentional overdoses in Montgomery County and the final numbers for 2014 are expected to be even higher,” Stevens said.

According to the OSAM report, the Miami Valley Regional Crime Lab processed a little-seen substance during the first half of 2014. The lab reported 41 cases of mitragynine, or kratom, a “psychoactive plant substance that produces a heroin-like high; its use is not detected by typical drug screening tests.”

The ability to purchase bath salts seemed to diminish as participants reported their availability at a one on a scale from zero to ten, with ten being highly available. One user shied away from the synthetic compounds, telling an interviewer,” I won’t mess with (bath salts) because I hear people start eating people.”

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