MUSKEGON, Mich. (Feb. 10, 2014) – Heroin is a drug that’s made national headlines recently, and its impact is felt in West Michigan as well.
“It doesn’t know rich or poor,” said Lt. Andy Fias, with the West Michigan Enforcement Team (WEMET). “We’ve seen all kinds of people that are using heroin.”
WEMET is one of three specialized narcotics teams working to keep dangerous drugs out of West Michigan, specifically in Allegan, Ottawa, and Muskegon counties.
Behind marijuana, heroin is the most common drug the team is encountering in certain parts of West Michigan, Lt. Fias said.
Just seven years ago, Lt. Fias said, heroin wasn’t even on the radar. “We didn’t see heroin at all,” he said. “Less than a gram seized in a year’s time frame.”
Why the change? The rising cost of prescription painkillers has created a market for herion.
“Heroin is a much cheaper high than trying to buy an Oxycontin pill on the street,” Fias said. “You may pay $20 to $40 for that pill, where you can spend $20 to $40 and get a better high on a pack of heroin.”
Herion is highly addictive and can be easily abused, he continued. “Any overdose is usually related to heroin.”
Further, herion is taking up time and resources. While the drug of choice in Allegan County is meth, heroin busts are increasing in Muskegon County. “Almost 400 grams in 2013,” Fias said. “In 2012, we seized a little over 180 grams of heroin for the entire year.”
Numbers like those used to be reserved for crack cocaine in the area. Now it’s both drugs.
“We’ve seen people that are blowing through hundreds of dollars a day, and some people that get by with a $20 to $40 package for a day.”
While arrests usually slow down street sales for a few days or weeks, a gap in the supply line doesn’t take long to fill. “There is always somebody ready to take the place of the guy who went to jail.”
On the East Coast, some overdoses have been linked to the practice of combining heroin with the powerful painkiller Fentanyl. That practice has not been detected yet in West Michigan.