COLUMBUS — The use of heroin is an epidemic in Ohio with more than 17 people dying from the drug and Attorney General Mike DeWine has announced the state is ready to fight back.
He recently announced the availability of new training developed to assist law enforcement in the fight.
“(Heroin) is really at epidemic levels in Ohio,” the attorney general said. “What has changed in the years since I was a prosecutor in Greene County is the range it has. Heroin was not wide spread. It was known in the big cities but not very much in Greene County.
“Now, it is in every county in the state, in every community in the state.”
AG DeWine said that he has surveyed the coroners of each county for an official count of deaths that can be linked to heroin. The numbers, he said, are disturbing.
“We do not have all the figures in yet, but it looks like there were over 900 deaths statewide in 2013 that were heroin related,” he said. “It goes up each year and in 2013, it was a pretty dramatic increase.
“In 2010, the number was slightly more than 300. In 2011, it went up to 427. In 2012, 725 and in 2013, over 900. And it shows no sign of leveling off.
“Heroin injects addiction, deception, and death in the lives of so many young people.”
The Attorney General stated that the problem is more than location.
“Not only is it in every economic group and every age group, heroin is a drug of affordability,” DeWine said. “It’s cheap. It has never been this cheap before. The Mexican cartels are bringing it in to the cities and from there it is widespread. It is very, very cheap.”
He added that the reason the drug is so deadly is because “there is no quality control.”
“You shoot up one day and it’s a rush. Another day, it’s not the same and you could die,” the attorney general said. “You don’t know what they are cutting it with which means you don’t know how strong it is. The same size dose could be deadly.
“A person in jail can come out and shoot up just like before he went to jail but the stuff’s not the same as before and it kills him.”
DeWine said if you compare a heroin addict with an alcoholic, “a late-stage alcoholic drinks about four times more than in early stages. But for heroin, it can be 100 times more. They need to take more just to function.”
The attorney general said his office is now working to assist local departments and task forces in fighting the influx of heroin in society.
“I have been going around the state, holding town hall meetings,” DeWine said. “What we try to do is focus attention on the issues. You can’t arrest our way out of this problem.”
DeWine said communities have to begin at a grassroots level to battle drugs.
“We have people in our office who can come out to communities to help them start at that grassroots level,” he said. “Our people will know how to help organize, how to get things together. They know what works and doesn’t work.”
He said the battle against heroin is three-fold: law enforcement, treatment, and prevention.
When it comes to law enforcement, DeWine’s office held “Heroin Epidemic: Recognition and Investigation” training at the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy in London. Some 94 officers representing 48 agencies from 24 counties were there to learn.
“People from every walk of life are getting addicted, and it is tearing families apart,” the attorney general said. “This training will help make sure law enforcement has the most up-to-date information on fighting and preventing heroin abuse, which will be especially beneficial for communities where heroin is still a relatively new problem.”
The training addressed topics such as the extent of the heroin problem in Ohio, recent trends in abuse and trafficking, demographics of new heroin users, investigative strategies, and relevant legal issues.
The course also puts focus on heroin use and trafficking in high school environments and includes presentations from a prevention expert, a mother of an overdose victim, and a former heroin addict.
Additional training sessions will be held in the Toledo, Cincinnati, and Cleveland areas next month.
The “Heroin Epidemic: Recognition and Investigation” training is part of a new effort to fight heroin abuse and trafficking that was launched by Attorney General DeWine last year. The attorney general also expanded his office’s drug prevention efforts and formed a new Heroin Unit to assist local law enforcement in targeting high level drug traffickers.
The attorney general has also stated that anyone who wishes to call the state’s tip line to report illegal activity in your area to law enforcement can call the Bureau of Criminal Investigation at 855-BCI-OHIO.
William Duffield can be reached at 937-372-4444 ext. 133 or on Twitter @WilliamDuffield