The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Local News

February 22, 2013

Officials: Pill users turning to heroin

HUNTINGTON (AP) — Authorities involved in efforts to crack down on illegal sales of prescription pills in West Virginia said Thursday they are seeing an alarming increase in heroin trafficking as users seek out less expensive drugs.

U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said that while prescription drugs represent the biggest crime problem in West Virginia’s southern district, heroin seizures by drug task forces have increased more than fourfold from 2011 to 2012.

Scott Masumoto of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration cited state health statistics that more than 152,000 West Virginians have an addiction to prescription medication — more than 8 percent of the population. But Masumoto said the price of these pills can be $80 or more apiece, making it difficult for teenagers to sustain their addictions, so they are moving to “cheaper” alternatives such as heroin.

Goodwin said what is especially striking is the potential for overdoses among new heroin users.

Last month in Parkersburg alone, police reported five heroin overdoses in less than two weeks. One of the users died.

“These nontraditional drug users aren’t used to it,” Goodwin said. “And even if they get used to it, they’re one potent batch away from overdosing. The potency of heroin is not consistent. It’s dependent on how much it’s ‘stepped on’ and how much it’s cut in the supply chain from Mexico here to southern West Virginia.”

Goodwin and Masumoto were among numerous state, federal and local officials who provided updates on efforts to fight prescription drug abuse at meetings in Huntington and Charleston.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Virginia has the second-highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation.   

Goodwin said an entire unit within his office is devoted almost exclusively to fighting prescription drug abuse. He said over the past two years, his office prosecuted more than 200 pill dealers.

As part of a crackdown on pill mills and doctor shopping, a new state law limits the amount of pain drugs a doctor or clinic can dispense; speeds up the tracking of prescriptions through a statewide database; and increases oversight of pain management clinics as well as methadone treatment centers. It also tightens the purchase limits on cold remedies that can be used to make methamphetamine.

To help reduce the demand for illegal prescription drug sales, West Virginia State Police Capt. Tim Bradley said law enforcement must get the word out to communities.

“It has to start with grade-school kids. There has not been a negative or dirty stigma with prescription drugs because it’s in all of our families,” he said.

“Until we get that ingrained and educated into our kids ... we need to focus on the education of our youngsters.”

Other speakers urged expanding training for health professionals and creating long-term care facilities with thousands of beds for drug addicts. They also urged continued federal funding for the cleanup of illegal methamphetamine operations, expanding access to the powerful drug naloxone that can stop the effects of drug overdoses, and using cost-effective treatments for drug-addicted infants.

Among those attending the seminars in Charleston and Huntington were U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, both D-W.Va., and White House Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske. Kerlikowske attended a similar meeting in Charleston in February 2011.

“Four years ago, the prescription drug issue wasn’t really on the radar screen,” he said. “I think the example of the progress that I see is this opportunity to come to West Virginia and see collaborations, partnerships and the leveraging of resources in a way that I think is unique. I think other states could take something away from this type of collaboration as they deal with this.”

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Human remains found near White Sulphur Springs

    Law enforcement officials are investigating human remains discovered by a local resident near White Sulphur Springs on Friday afternoon, according to Greenbrier County Sheriff Jan Cahill.

    April 20, 2014

  • knine Beckley officer and K-9 partner Ciro win award from WVPCA

    They say every dog has his day, but a local pooch and his handler have had about 365 days of success.
    Cpl. Jamie Blume of the Beckley Police Department and his K-9 partner Ciro have won the 2013-2014 Officer and K-9 of the Year award from the WVPCA, according to a press release from the Beckley Police Department.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Shooting at Quality Inn injures one

    A shooting took place at the Quality Inn in Beckley on Friday night, according to Raleigh County dispatchers.

    April 20, 2014

  • Area 911 dispatchers report several fires

    Fire departments from all over Raleigh County and its surrounding areas dealt with fires Friday night, according to dispatchers.

    April 20, 2014

  • High court overturns Raleigh ruling

    An audio recording between a confidential informant and a Beckley attorney accused of selling cocaine will now be allowed into evidence, according to a West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruling.

    April 20, 2014

  • Calendar — Sunday, April 20, 2014

    April 20, 2014

  • State agency announces new WIC income guidelines

    The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources Office of Nutrition Services has reported new U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) income eligibility guidelines for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

    April 20, 2014

  • mthope Good Friday scene

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Service workers want voice in choice in Raleigh County Schools superintendent hiring

    The president of the Raleigh County School Service Personnel Association has asked Raleigh County Board of Education members to choose a school superintendent who will hear the concerns of service workers in the school system and involve them in the decision-making process.

    April 19, 2014

  • Two internal candidates will interview for superintendent position Monday

    Two current administrators at Raleigh County Schools will be interviewed for the position of superintendent Monday, Raleigh Board of Education members verified Friday.
    Raleigh Schools Director of Secondary Education Miller Hall and Raleigh Schools Assistant Superintendent David Price were chosen from a pool of six applicants, BOE members said.

    April 19, 2014