Heroin use up nationally, locally


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Heroin use and distribution are on the rise in eastern Iowa, according to numerous local law-enforcement officials.

Iowa City police Sgt. Vicki Lalla, and University of Iowa police Associate Director Bill Searls said their departments have noticed an rise in heroin use in Johnson County recently.

“It’s up and down,” Searls said. “Right now, it’s up.”

The number of people who have used heroin in the past 12 months rose from 373,000 in 2007 to 669,000 in 2012, according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

In 2012, there were 156,000 new heroin users nationally, and new users between the ages of 12 and 49 averaged 23 years old, according to the survey.

The Iowa Division of Narcotics Enforcement is receiving more tips about the drug than usual, said Paul Feddersen, assistant director of the agency.

Heroin, while not as prevalent in Iowa as other drugs, can be deadly.

“It seems like there are more deaths from heroin than from meth or marijuana,” Feddersen said.

Overdoses from heroin have increased in the last few years. Two individuals, one in Johnson County and one in Marion, overdosed on what officials believed was heroin last weekend; however, toxicology reports have not confirmed this, said Daniel Stepleton, a special agent in the state narcotics agency.

The heroin is likely coming in from out of state.

“Most of our heroin is coming from Chicago,” Stepleton said, “Bigger cities are going to produce more heroin.”

However, the trend has not made its way to University of Iowa students.

“We’re not seeing it on campus,” Searls said.

Stepleton said heroin has become more prevalent in Iowa, and use of the schedule-1 narcotic has been on the rise for the last few years.

This coming summer would mark the third year in a row of an increase.

Schedule-1 drugs have no accepted medical use, have a high potential for abuse, and are considered the most dangerous drugs, carrying the potential for severe physical and psychological dependency, according to the Justice Department.

Heroin can be produced pure enough that it can be snorted or smoked rather than injected intravenously, according to the Division of Narcotics Enforcement website. Injecting the drug used to keep new users away.

According to the narcotics agency website, Kansas City, Mo., has also seen an increase in the trafficking of the drug, indicating that use and trafficking of the drug will continue to increase in Iowa.

However, Sean McCullough of the Mid Iowa Narcotics Enforcement Task Force, said heroin is not as prevalent in the Des Moines area, compared with Johnson County.

“We’re seeing and hearing about it more [in the area],” Feddersen said.

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