Opioid/heroin: A growing problem

Opioid/heroin: A growing problem

MARQUETTE — Heroin and opioid addiction is on the rise nation–wide including the Upper Peninsula. The problem is evolving, but law enforcement is fighting back.

“Marquette County we see the highest number of drug addicted babies in the state per capita,” said D/Lt. Tim Scholander with Michigan State Police UPSET, “the Upper Peninsula is a destination area for narcotics. And with the amount of prescription drugs that are currently on the street and the higher price, people are looking to get their next higher fix, and that higher fix is heroin.”

Local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies held a joint press conference Friday afternoon about opioid addiction. The problem is growing nation-wide, including the Upper Peninsula.

“Any type of community has been effected by this opioid abuse problem,” said DEA Special Agent/Public Information Officer Rich Isaacson, “and what frequently happens, we see people becoming addicted to the painkillers and then that addiction becomes so expensive they cannot afford the pills on the street and that’s when they switch to using heroin because they can buy heroin at a much cheaper rate than they can buy the pills.”

The demand for heroin and prescription opioid pain relievers is high and drug dealers from bigger cities like Detroit, Milwaukee, and Chicago recognize there is money to be made in a place like the U.P. because they can charge higher prices.

“The price for a typical dosage unit of heroin,” added Scholander, “which is just 1/10th of a gram in the Upper Peninsula is anywhere from $40–$50, where in Detroit it might be $10–$15.”

Even with national overdose deaths on the rise, most noticeably in the past several years, the demand still remains. Law enforcement are trying to do whatever they can to reduce the rate of recidivism and focus on higher–tier level dealers.

“We want to try and see and make sure that we can get the addicts the help that they need so that we’re not just constantly arresting them,” Scholander mentioned, “putting them in jail, and then re–arresting them again sometimes even days or hours later.”

The ANGEL Program in Delta County has made impressive strides since its inception. Scholander mentioned that the addition of a similar program in Marquette County is a potential possibility.

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To watch a 45-minute documentary film sponsored by the Department of Justice entitled Chasing The Dragon about the dangers opioids pose, click here.