Heroin Overdoses Increase In Columbia

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COLUMBIA - Heroin has become the most used -- and most abused -- drug in Columbia. In the past six months, heroin overdose cases have jumped. According to the Columbia Police Department, the 2011 numbers show 244 fatal overdoses in all Missouri and 2 fatal cases in Columbia. The same statistics show that at least a dozen people in Columbia have suffered a heroin overdose but were reached in time by medics and the police. Also last year, more than 4,000 Missourians were admitted to treatment for heroin addiction.

Detective Jeff Rukstad of Columbia Police Department, who specialized in narcotics, said the trend comes from the increasing abuse of prescription opiates such as oxycodone, codeine and Percocet. Use of this powerful opium derivative is becoming a serious problem both statewide and nationally.

"People are going to doctors trying to make false statements and get drugs like Oxycontin. Because it's an opiate, and so it's heroin. They really marry each other,so it's easier to get the heroin right now than it is to go to the doctor and get the pills," said Rukstad.

Most common heroin drugs in Columbia are: Concrete, China White and Gravel. The price for 1/10 of a gram is $30. Heroin can be snorted, smoked and injected intravenously. If used with a needle, it becomes more addictive. Symptoms and signs of heroin use are:

- Bring on the "nod."
- Constricted pupils.
- Flu symptoms several times a week
- Needdled marks -- tracks -- on the arm, leg or stomach.

Detective Jeff Rukstad said the heroin in Columbia comes from St. Louis. He went on to say the police department is working with the drug court and counseling centers around Columbia to stop people from becoming addicted, so the dealers might go away.

Clinical supervisor and family therapist with Pathways Family Counselling Center, Lucinda Levings, said she is also concerned about the increase in prescription abuse, especially among teenagers.

"They either get it from family or they buy it from the streets or friends who get it from their family members. There are more teens using scripts and they also combine them with other drugs which is dangerous," Levings said.

She advised those people who used painkillers to look for alternatives and to guard their perscriptions and pills at home.

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reports, "Heroin (diacetylmorphine) is a highly addictive semisynthetic opioid that is derived from morphine. Because of impurities and additives, street heroin may appear in various colors, ranging from white to dark brown to black, tarry substance."