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May 13, 2014

Getting high: Cass officials say heroin usage rising sharply

A few years ago, it was “hit or miss” if Cass County law enforcement found someone using heroin.

Lately, it’s worse, Logansport Police Department spokesman Bryan Hillis said.

Both the use and the sale of heroin, a highly addictive opiate derived from morphine, is on the rise in Cass County, said Hillis, an assistant chief with the LPD and member of its criminal investigations/special operations division. He said the county’s Drug Task Force has noticed “a significant increase” within just the last six months to a year.

Hillis estimated that heroin is still a minority drug in the area compared to other abused substances, but its novelty has drawn users of other drugs to it.

“My opinion is, people are getting bored with meth and they’re getting bored with marijuana and they’re looking for a new fix,” Hillis said.

It’s also “not super expensive,” he added.

Heroin usually appears as a white or brown powder or a black sticky substance, known as “black tar” heroin, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of the National Institutes of Health.

“Black tar” heroin in particular is popular in Indiana, according to the Indiana Prevention Resource Center. It and other forms of heroin produce a euphoria and relieve pain, the IPRC indicates, but users often don’t know just what’s in their drug of choice — dealers often add substances like sugar, starch quinine and powdered milk to increase profits.

Those additives increase the risk of overdose or death, according to the IPRC. The NIDA indicates they can cause permanent damage specifically to the lungs, liver, kidneys or brain.

On the street, heroin is known by names like “brown sugar,” “junk,” “smack” or “skag,” the IPRC stated.

Whether injected, inhaled by snorting or sniffing, or smoked, the drug reaches the brain rapidly, contributing to its health risk and its high risk for addiction — according to the NIDA, about 23 percent of individuals who use heroin become dependent on it.

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