Heroin is a growing problem in Green Country

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Reported by: Angela Hong
Updated: 2/14 2:52 pm Published: 2/14 10:32 am

TULSA, Okla. - In Oklahoma, it costs taxpayers about $5,000 to treat someone with drug addiction and about $25,000 to keep a drug offender in jail for a year.

Law enforcement and doctors told FOX23 the drug abuse issue in the state is a societal problem and now, an old, familiar drug is making a comeback.

“I remember the first time I did heroin, I was out of pills,” said Megan Crocker.

The 23-year-old’s heroin addiction story is like most others. The Sand Springs native got hooked on Lortab and oxycontin in high school and then turned to heroin, a cheaper alternative, when pills didn't get her high enough.

“The next thing you know I was doing it every day. I was spending about $100 a day on it. And that was on a day I didn't have money. I had to steal and manipulate and lie to get what I wanted,” she said.

The Oklahoma Office of the Drug Enforcement Administration said a rise in prescription pill abuse has led to what is now a heroin abuse problem.

Statistics 1 in 12 Oklahomans abuse pills and 507 people died from this abuse in 2013.

“It's not what it was in the early 70s where you had a heroin den or shooting galleries. We’re talking about people who didn't intend to be drug addicts first of all. They found themselves addicted to pain pills. Now they are addicted to heroin,” said Richard Salter, with DEA.

Heroin is has also gotten cheaper and easier to get.

“It's pretty accessible. If you know someone that has done oxycontin or any kind of opioids a lot has done heroin or even if they haven't done it. They know where to get it,” said Crocker.

The Mexican drug cartels are pushing heroin. Once over the border, Oklahoma is a passageway to distribute heroin throughout the country.

“You got I-35. You got I-40 east/west corridors. You have a lot of drugs coming through this state,” said Salter.

There were three known distribution cells operating in Tulsa. Recently Homeland Security, the DEA and the Tulsa County Drug Task Force took down one cell this past December.

In what was called Operation Train Tracks, authorities arrested six people. Law enforcement agents seized more than 4 kilograms of heroin worth more than $700,000 on the streets.

This led to a decrease of heroin on the streets locally but then an increase in Tulsa-area pharmacy robberies for opioids like oxycontin.

The DEA said when one cell is taken down, another one eventually pops up.

“We are constantly chasing them. But that's the way you manage, that's the way law enforcement manages the problem,” said Salter.

But some doctors believe there needs to be more focus and money spent on treatment rather than incarcerating addicts, because they are more likely to use again.

“It's hard. The recovery rate for opiate addiction without or use of methadone is only 12-15 percent even with treatment,” said Dr. William Yarborough with 12 and 12 Medical.

Meanwhile heroin continues to claim more lives each year in Oklahoma.

“These people basically have one foot in the grave and anything you can do to keep them from using these drugs is a positive thing,” said Yarborough.

There are efforts to curb the prescription drug abuse problem. Last year, Gov. Mary Fallin announced a plan to enhance the Prescription Monitoring System to keep people from doctor shopping for pills

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of KOKI FOX23 - Tulsa

Mayor Maynot - 2/14/2014 5:44 PM
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Wonder why they don't report on hydrocodone.
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