Heroin is killing this county.
That was the message shared with the public at the Community Resource Center Friday by Brian McLaughlin, county Drug Task Force (DTF) director, who offered a look at the various drugs being used in the area.
Although he also discussed the dire effects of cocaine, crack cocaine and methamphetamines, McLaughlin told the group, "Heroin is literally killing us."
He related a drastic increase in heroin use since the start of the task force, asking, "What the heck happened?"
To answer that question, McLaughlin first explained the reason most people become addicted to heroin, saying most start with pain pills that were legally prescribed for some ailment or another.
After a while, the patient builds up a tolerance to the pills and needs more, until it takes 15 to 20 per day to do the job, which McLaughlin noted "gets expensive."
At that point, he said, "Someone says, 'It's only $20 for this bag, and it does the same thing,' and you're off on the heroin."
He said doctors have often been "way over-prescribing" the pain medication Oxycontin which can lead to the desire for more medication but said some changes are being made in regulations regarding the drug.
McLaughlin said a member of the county's Special Response Team who is also a medic recently offered a startling revelation about the use of heroin, saying he doesn't remember working a shift during which he didn't have to revive someone from a heroin overdose.
Some in the audience were astounded by the facts McLaughlin offered, including those who had never seen a marijuana leaf or a rock of crack cocaine which he passed around, and those who could not believe a sugar packet-sized package of cocaine goes for $100 on the street and equates to one use for many addicts.
Some, however, were all too familiar with McLaughlin's tales, with one woman said, "My son is a drug addict; I know almost all of this." "Mine, too," another woman added.
Among the concerns voiced was "what takes so long" to identify, arrest and bring to justice those using drugs.
McLaughlin said there are several factors at play.
Once the drugs are found, they must be taken to a lab for testing, which takes a minimum of six weeks, followed by presenting a case to the prosecutor for possible charges to be presented to the grand jury. This is followed by a court case, which he said typically takes a year, although he related one case that is more than two years old because the defendant skips court, after which his attorney intervenes for a continuance, followed by him firing the attorney. This resulted in more delays, all while the defendant has been charged in additional cases.
One woman said three of her son's young friends have died of heroin overdoses, asking, "What horrible odds. What can we do?"
McLaughlin said, "The biggest thing we're lacking is driving home from the time they are yea big that they don't need this crap. Home is the biggest part."
He encouraged the public to notify the drug task force of suspected drug activity, saying, "Drugs are our business."
The drug task force phone number is 330-424-0309.