MINNEAPOLIS -- Here at home we have a problem, a big problem. For more than three years, the number of deaths due to heroin overdoses has skyrocketed all around the metro.
In Hennepin County, there were 21 heroin related deaths last year, which is a 100 percent increase since 2010. In Ramsey County, there were three overdoses in 2010 and in 2011, there were 12. In Anoka County, 14 people overdosed in 2010 but in 2011, 68 people.
It's numbers like these that have all three county sheriff's begging for all of us to take notice, because the road to heroin too often starts in the medicine cabinet.
"Be aware that painkiller abuse is the gateway to heroin abuse," Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said. Prescription drugs of the painkiller variety are opiates, just like heroin.
Teens will try out a pill, get hooked and then take the next logical step to the cheaper painkiller, heroin.
Justin Fox did it.
He started when he was just 14-years-old. "I tried some Percocet, some pain pills," Fox said Thursday from the facility he is living in for drug treatment.
When those pills ran out, Fox said he needed the high because he was addicted. That's when he was introduced to heroin. "It was just a complete downfall of my entire life. It completely consumed me," Fox said.
Heroin in Minnesota is as addictive as it is deadly. A big reason why? It is so pure. Heroin sold on our streets is the most potent in the country.
According to Sheriff Stanek, the heroin sold here has a purity rate higher than 90 percent. That means its high is higher than others and that means its chances of killing its user are equally as high. "A heroin user in the Twin Cities has a greater chance of accidental overdose because the purity of that heroin is so high," Sheriff Stanek said.
Sheriff Stanek said there are a few reasons why the purity rate is what it is here. He says one reason is because the drug comes here directly from its source in Mexico and therefore is never diluted from its initial state. A second reason is marketing. Dealers can sell pure heroin at a higher rate because it is that much more addictive.
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