Growing heroin problem seen in courts, treatment centers

By: Joe Nelson Email
By: Joe Nelson Email

EAU CLAIRE, Wisc. (WEAU) - Police and addiction counselors say they've seen heroin abuse in the area over the past few years, with users coming from all backgrounds.

Cory Stoner of Eau Claire was denied a plea deal Tuesday on charges of delivering heroin, with more charges pending. Police said he's part of a bigger problem that's been happening throughout the area.

In Jan., Stoner, along with Jessica Fischer of Fargo, N.D. and Joshua Hogan of Eau Claire were arrested for delivering heroin in Eau Claire, and are going through the court process, raising concerns for their neighbors.

“It's a scary thing to think about because you've got kids running around in the neighborhood,” Alex Pernsteiner of Eau Claire said. “There's a lot of needles that lay around in this neighborhood.”

Police said many users had no criminal history and got addicted after using legal prescriptions.

“Over the course of the last two years, we've seen a definite increase in heroin related cases. Part of this is due to the use and abuse of narcotic medications,” Field Operations Supervisor of the West Central Drug Task Force Andrew Falk said.

L.E. Phillips Libertas Treatment Center counselor Jennifer Coyne said the number of patients addicted to heroin has also increased over the past five years.

She said the center treats withdrawal symptoms in many ways.

“We do see people who have really not had a lot of drug use in their life, but who have gone from prescription opiates to opiates on the streets and then into heroin,” Coyne said.

“If you can think of the worst flu you've ever had and extend that, that's kind of what opiate withdrawal is like."

“After a certain point, they're not even really looking to get high. They're just looking to not be sick anymore,” she said.

Coyne said there is hope.

“Addiction is treatable. Yes. We have many success stories. It is definitely something that can be done.”

Police said heroin users often commit other crimes including theft, to support their addictions.

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