Pubdate: Wed, 07 May 2014
Source: Intelligencer, The (Wheeling, WV)
Copyright: 2014 The Intelligencer & Wheeling News Register


Illegal drugs have become a deadly merry-go-round in West Virginia.
Just when the authorities believe they are making a dent in one form
of abuse, another one comes around to take its place. Sometimes the
cycle repeats itself.

Police and prosecutors seem to be having some success in cracking down
on methamphetamine labs, synthetic drugs and prescription pill abuse.
But some say that has resulted in more trafficking in heroin.

Price seems to be a factor. In part because arrests of prescription
painkiller pushers have made the law of supply and demand kick in, the
pills have become more expensive in some places. Heroin actually is

But it is deadlier in some respects. West Virginia now has the highest
rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation. There were 66 in 2012, the
last year for which statistics are available.

In all likelihood, the actual toll is greater. Some overdose deaths
may never be reported as such.

Another indicator of the upswing in heroin trafficking comes from a
major drug interdiction agency that operates in this state, along with
Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee. In 2010, the Appalachian
High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program reported confiscating 142
grams of heroin in West Virginia. By last year, seizures were up to
8,263 grams.

It would be one thing if law enforcement agencies could declare
"mission accomplished" on other illegal drugs and focus their
attention entirely on heroin. They cannot. Success is measured only in
comparative terms - meth, pain pills, synthetic dope and other
competitors for heroin remain serious threats.

Some law enforcement officials have confessed to us that they simply
don't know what to do. They and their officers, along with prosecutors
and judges, work hard and effectively against producers and pushers of
illegal drugs. Look at the arrest logs and court dockets for evidence
of that.

But some police chiefs and deputies with decades of experience say
they have never seen drug abuse as pervasive as it is now in West Virginia.

Perhaps a first step is to determine what works and what does not. Are
sentences for drug manufacturers and sellers stiff enough to serve as
deterrents? Are special drug courts working? How about treatment? What
forms of it succeed and do we have enough of that here?

In the meantime, law enforcement officials and officers should be
given all the resources at our disposal to fight back against the
epidemic. If that does not happen, matters will only grow worse.
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