Task Force Reports Heroin Related Deaths Continue to Climb

Jul 12, 2013

New strategies will be tried as police attack Lexington’s problem with heroin.  Lexington’s problem with heroin can be measured in the number of users who die from an overdose.  Police Lieutenant Scott Blakely says heroin related deaths have gone from five in 2011 to 28 fatalities so far this year.  And, heroin accounts for nearly 70 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2013.  Blakely says many pushers are from other cities.

Anti-Heroin Task Force announces its early findings during a news conference this morning in Lexington.
Credit Stu Johnson / WEKU News

“They’re coming here from Cincinnati.  They’re coming here from Cleveland.  They’re coming here from Detroit and they’re selling heroin to our citizens and our approach is we’re gonna’ interrupt that and we’re gonna stop that,” said Blakely.

Lexington’s created a heroin task force.  It includes Lexington’s police, court officials, educators and drug treatment specialists. 

Michelle McCarthy, who’s with the Mayor’s Alliance on Substance Abuse, says many heroin traffickers make poor candidates for treatment.

“If you put someone like that into a treatment program, they don’t need it, it’s gonna waste those resources, waste that treatment spot that for someone who truly needs drug treatment,” said McCarthy.

Many times, McCarthy add traffickers don’t use the deadly and addictive drug. 

During a news conference today, Fire Department Medical Director Ryan Stanton said a drug that can counteract the deadly effects of an overdose also has a down side.  While Stanton says Narcan may promote extreme abuse, it’s also vital in reducing OD deaths.

“And that’s one of the things we have to come to grips with is will this encourage some people to try stronger doses to get a better high or a higher high, knowing that they have the narcan available there.  But, in the end, for us, it’s all about saving lives and getting them to us or to some place to get them help to get them recovered,” said Stanton.

The fire department’s medical director says there’s another health concern.  Stanton say over half of all heroin users eventually develop hepatitis.  Stanton says they then infect other people in the community through dirty hypodermic needles and sexual activity…

“It will become a public health crisis when we start seeing these large number of hepatitis, endocarditis, things like that within the community.  And not only will it be a huge toll on the abusers, but it’s gonna be a public health toll,” explained Stanton.

Several speakers at a news conference talked heroin users and how they started by abusing prescription drugs.  As prescription drugs grew scarce through tougher laws, they shifted over to heroin as a relatively cheap substitute.