Drug bust sheds light on drug trends in Columbia

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COLUMBIA - A November drug bust exemplifies a decade-long shift in drug trends in mid-Missouri, according to city councilman Michael Trapp.

"The biggest change that I've seen is the increase in the use of opiates. Really, it begins with legal prescription pain relievers and I've seen the age of people who really start to have severe problems with drugs drop considerably."

Trapp said some of those changes also include a rise in cases where children reach into their parents' cabinets and get prescription painkillers, which he said contain opiates that become addictive and really expensive in the black market.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA) numbers show 24% of people got their painkillers for non-medical use from a doctor. The rest got them from either friends, dealers on the street or the Internet.

Assistant Chief of Police Jeremiah Hunter said the large number of students from universities around Columbia have an impact when it comes to drugs.

"I think any time you add an additional 30 to 40,000 in population, everything's going to increase," Hunter said.

Trapp said he was not surprised by drug activity in Columbia, or the seizure of cocaine and crack cocaine during the November bust.

"From what I've seen, that has been pretty steady, if anything, a small decline, certainly not a surge or spike in that," Trapp said. "That's just sort of the trade that always exists and then there are these busts periodically and that will break up the network and will reduce the activity for a while."

He said the basic principles of supply and demand also apply to drugs and that, as long as there are people who want to buy drugs, there will be those who supply it. Trapp said while drug busts help break up drug networks and reduce activity for a while, the demand for drugs will lead to other suppliers.

The Columbia Police Department said the November bust shows it is keeping a close eye on state of affairs of drugs in the city, especially since it said that drug activity and crime go hand-in-hand.

"With drugs comes violence and that inevitably follows, so it's something we pay attention to specifically, and we throw a lot of resources at because of the accompaniment of violence," Hunter said.

He said the violence involved with drugs often depends on certain factors.

"The type of drug, how hard it is to obtain, how hard it is to manufacture, how hard it is to distribute, those are all key elements in how much violence accompanies that and our response to that," Hunter said. "If you get massive amounts of whatever the case may be, coming through town, whether they protect that, the amount of resources the criminals throw into that enterprise, it is concerning and we have to adjust and we have to keep going with our game plan."