The opioid epidemic has been a common problem across Northwest Missouri, but now local law enforcement is noticing those addicts moving over to heroin use.
Capt. Shawn Collie with the Buchanan County Drug Strike Force said in the last year his agency has seen prices for opioids skyrocket, forcing people to move to something else.
“People buying them off the streets aren’t able to afford the pills, so they’re switching over to heroin because it’s cheaper,” Collie said.
Collie also said that a large number of individuals are driving to Kansas City and Omaha and bringing back heroin at a cheaper price.
Both opioid and heroin use still are concerns for law enforcement, but Collie said heroin has had the most drastic change.
“It’s getting to the point where we’re seeing needles on the streets and playground where people are using them,” Collie said.
Dr. Robert Corder, a volunteer physician with St. Kolbe-Puckett Center for Healing, said his facility sees a variety of addicts in the clinic, but the majority are related to heroin.
“You get addicted to pills, and then you can’t get pills and you get withdrawals. And it’s either you tough it out or get something that helps with withdrawals, and some go to heroin,” Corder said.
Corder said the clinic primarily uses suboxone to treat heroin patients, but it’s an extremely hard process.
“When people are clean, their body still has that memory and it’s just something about the heroin that makes it difficult to treat,” Corder said. “We’ve got a lot of patients that are clean now from heroin, but it just holds on to them a lot tighter.”
Another problem that comes along with the increase of heroin use is the possibility of overdose deaths, Collie said.
“It’s a substance that you don’t know who made it or what was put into it. And we’re seeing fentanyl and other types of narcotics added to the heroin, and that’s where we start seeing the overdoses,” Collie said.
Corder said that fentanyl isn’t a good to mix in with narcotics and will typically have a negative outcome.
“Just the tiny bit of fentanyl will kill you if you get too much,” Corder said.
In order to help the issue and drug addicts of all types, Collie and Corder said it’s important for family and friends to pay close attention to changes in moods or appearances of people who may be involved with drugs.
“You start seeing someone that’s wearing long sleeves all year round in 100-degree weather, and you should communicate with that person to help,” Collie said.
Collie said St. Kolbe-Puckett, the Family Guidance Center and the City of St. Joseph Health Department are a few of the places people with drug addictions can go to get the help they need.