The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 23, 2013

The next thing

Raleigh sheriff predicts heroin will soon be the next drug abuse problem

— Authorities throughout our region have been cracking down on the prescription pill problem, enough so that Raleigh County Sheriff Steve Tanner said last week that he sees the sub-culture in southern West Virginia linked to it as losing steam.

However, in virtually the same breath, Tanner predicted that the next significant drug abuse issue would be heroin since it closely masks the effects of opioids provided in most pills that are pain killers.

“That’s what’s going to happen here,” Tanner explained to a large group of state lawmakers and business leaders from across the region. “That’s just how it works.”

Raleigh’s chief law enforcement officer told the group that the protocols and laws are in place to fight heroin, and that’s a good thing.

But the looming threat is scary, simply put.

During the last two weeks, just two hours north of us on Interstate 77 in Wood County, five heroin overdoses have been reported to authorities.

Police there indicated that the heroin was an exceptionally “strong batch” that found its way into the Parkersburg area from New York.

If it can get from New York to the banks of the Ohio River in West Virginia it can certainly work its way 125 miles south in the blink of an eye.

Illicit forms of heroin are typically injected, snorted or smoked. Shooting up, which is apparently the popular way of getting it into the blood stream, also opens up the door to other major health issues including the spread of hepatitis through dirty needles.

We also learned last week that neighboring Mercer County tops the state when it comes to hepatitis — most cases being linked to the injecting of drugs.

All across our region physicians will tell you that every day addicts are rolling in to offices and emergency rooms seeking a fix.

And while plenty still want pills, many ask to be shot up with Dilaudid or want Fentanyl, both pharmaceutical versions of heroin.

The scourge of drug abuse continues. We’re just glad people like Tanner know what to be preparing for as we remain vigilant in the fight to take back our communities and clean up our culture for the next generation.