Heroin Arrests Rise Annually in Jefferson City

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JEFFERSON CITY - Since actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died of a heroin overdose, the drug has been all over the media. 

KOMU 8 News investigated the number of opioid-related incidents, including arrests and overdoses, in Jefferson City, Columbia, and Boone County. (Watch our exclusive interview with a convicted user's twin brother).

Opioids includes drugs such as heroin, methadone, and Oxycodone. 

KOMU 8 News found that Boone County has by far the lowest number of drug arrests. Jefferson City has almost four times as many, while Columbia has almost five times as many. Even though Columbia typically has larger arrest numbers, over the last few years, opioid drug arrests have decreased in Columbia, while they have increased in Jefferson City. 

Here are some charts that show the number of opioid-related arrests for both possession and distribution: 

The numbers for Boone County and Columbia came from the Uniform Crime Report, and the numbers for Jefferson City came from the Jefferson City Records Department. When KOMU 8 News compared the opioid drug arrest numbers in Jefferson City from the records department to the numbers from the Uniform Crime Report they did not match.

Capt. Doug Shoemaker, of the Jefferson City Police Department, said a lot of the issue comes from a coding problem within the system.

"We are actually upgrading to another version of the system that will hopefully streamline some things, so while they are relatively close to some degree, we are probably going to get that even more streamline as we approach the new record system," he said. 

In 2008, Jefferson City drug investigations for heroin made up only 4 percent of the total undercover workload. In 2009, it jumped to 27 percent, and by 2010, it reached 30 pecent. A law enforcement task force said heroin has now surpassed all other drug investigations in central Missouri. 

Shoemaker said his department realized the massive heroin issue in 2012. 

"We created the H.O.P.E. Campaign based on a model in St. Louis County, which basically brings the educational component into not only what we do, but it really brings service providers and health professionals to kind of collaborate with us," Shoemaker said. 

Jefferson City police work closley with the Cole County Emergency Medical Services. Paramedic Kevin Wieberg said the Cole County EMS have been using Narcan, an opioid overdose reversal drug, for several years. 

Wieberg said, from Jan. 1, 2013 to March 16 they have administered Narcan 38 times and have had an 85 percent success rate of reversing an opioid overdose. 

"Sometimes it doesn't work if they are too far gone, or if they have too much opioids in their system," Wieberg said. 

Narcan can be administered nasally or via an injection. 

Wieberg said, "We are more used to the needles. Out of all the times we have administered Narcan in the past 15 months, I'd say we've only used the nasal kind four times out of the total 38. We are just used to the needle push."

When Narcan was administered: 

  • 8 were for heroin overdose
  • 14 were for opioid pill overdose
  • 16 were for unknown causes 
Narcan was not used for: 
  • 56 pill overdose calls 
  • 10 heroin overdose calls 
  • 19 other calls 
According to a 2013 study from the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality nearly four out of five people who recently started using heroin used prescription painkillers first. 

Jefferson City police said prescription painkillers frequently serve as a "gateway" to heroin for many young people, whether they were originally used by prescription or were gotten by other means.

Both Wieberg and Shoemaker said, eventually, pain pills are not strong enough. Then, when people switch to heroin they can build a tolerance and often switch dealers. 

People also switch to heroin because it is easier to find and it is a lot cheper. Police also said prices will vary due to supply and demand, but normally it runs $20 to $30 per "shoe" or bag of heroin.

It is impossible to determine the actual dosage of heroin ingested just by knowing the weight, Weinberg said.

"All they know is that they put half of a gram into their system, but they don't know how much is in that gram."

Shoemaker said the heroin is most likley coming from Chicago, St. Louis, or other key areas along the major pipelines that run along major highways, such as Interstate 70 and Highway 63. 

For more information on the H.O.P.E. Campaign and Jefferson City's other efforts to reduce heroin usage visit here. 

Watch the interview below to hear how heroin use affected the lives of twin brothers.