Heroin Use Rising in Utah County

While methamphetamines have been a drug of choice when prescriptions are not needed in Utah, heroin has found a new fan base and prescription drug use is becoming more expensive.

According to a recent Standard piece, heroin is challenging methamphetamines as the top abused drug as prescription drug abusers are looking for a cheaper fix. Sgt. Troy Burnett of the Weber Morgan Narcotics Strike Force noted there has been a rapid rise in the use of heroin in Weber County.

To demonstrate the contrast, Burnett noted that in 2008 and 2009 combined, the strike force was able to make 34 heroin arrests. The total for 2010 is already at 35. In the 2008-09 timeframe, just half a pound of heroin was seized by task forces. So far in 2010, the seizure has reached 5.4 pounds.

Burnett is convinced that the demand for heroin is being driven by prescription drug abusers seeking a cheaper fix. A big population of users exists among the high school student sector and many start off using pain pills such as OxyContin or Oxycodone. These pills are becoming more expensive to obtain and heroin is dropping in price. As all of these drugs are an opiate, the substitution achieves the desired effect.

Most of the drugs reaching Weber County are supplied through Salt Lake City. According to Burnett, 100 percent of the heroin comes from the city and the strike force works closely with agencies in the area to try and reduce the flow.

Roughly 85 percent of Utah’s prison population has a problem with substance abuse, according to the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health. A report put out by this division shows that alcohol is still the most abused substance, followed by methamphetamine, marijuana, heroin, prescription drugs and cocaine.