A warning from the Department of Justice: Heroin is heading our way.
The DOJ Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) uses the state crime lab as a barometer of sorts to monitor drug cases. In 2005, 155 total heroin cases went through the state lab. Just last month, there were 42 cases.
So far, DCI is not dealing with any cases in Eau Claire. But, heroin did show up recently in a traffic stop near La Crosse. For now, DCI agents are in preventative mode. They want to get the word out that heroin is a highly addictive and deadly drug.
Every day, officers wage a war on drugs. In our area, they find cocaine and pot growing operations. For a while meth was the drug of choice. But, what was once seen as back ally, seedy drug is now making a comeback as chic.
Heroin is "a drug you don't even want to do once. It will reach up and grab a hold of you and control your life," says DCI Special Agent in Charge Jed Sperry.
Sperry says users will shoot up three times a day. They spend their lives in a daze, nodding in and out of consciousness. Their biggest fear is coming down from that high. Withdrawal is described as 20 times worse than your worse bout of the flu. It’s so bad, heroin users remain permanently high.
Sperry says heroin use in Wisconsin exploded in Milwaukee about four or five years ago. It's now moved into Madison.
"A year, year and a half from now, I would not be surprised if you interview me and the main concern (in western Wisconsin) is heroin," he says.
So, what's behind rapid spread?
Sperry says one reason is the fact that prescription drugs are now the second most abused drug in the U.S. Because many are opium based, the jump to heroin is an easy one.
He says heroin has also changed. It's become purer and can be snorted. But, give a user six months and Sperry says they'll move on to needles.
But, he says maybe the biggest problem is the fact that heroin is so incredibly addictive.
"People say try it once and you're going to get hooked," Sperry says.
He says when a dealer moves into an area, they'll often even give heroin away for free. It that's addicting. Now, DCI is working a proactive approach—getting the word out that heroin is coming and it's nothing to mess around with.
Sperry says "when people get hooked on heroin, only two things can get them off it: Treatment or death.”
If you want to get a hold of the DCI, you can call the confidential tip line at 1-800-622-3784.
If schools are interested in heroin awareness training they can contact Jed Sperry at (715) 839-3830.