I-Team 10: Heroin cases on the rise

Posted at: 06/07/2013 6:01 PM
Updated at: 06/07/2013 7:29 PM

A warning for parents and young adults. It's a frightening situation, but investigators say they're seeing a significant spike in cases of heroin abuse and heroin related deaths. In our area alone, the numbers have almost tripled in the last year and it's impacting younger victims.

The numbers News10NBC have obtained are alarming, more than 40 heroin overdoses in just eight months. When Rochester had a similar spike in heroin deaths a decade ago, the majority of the victims were ages 40 to 49. What we are seeing now, is a much younger group of addicts, with most of those dying falling in the 20 to 29-year-old age group.

At the Monroe County Crime Lab, they are busy processing evidence.  And from that evidence, they gather important data that sheds a light on what's happening on our streets. What they've discovered is that heroin use appears to be gaining in popularity.   

James Wesley, Forensic Chemist, Monroe Co. Crime Lab, said, "There was a shift and a big increase in heroin use. Over 3 1/2 times the number of items came in between 2011 and 2012, went up 3 1/2 fold in one year."

In 2011, the crime lab investigated 98 cases involving 227 bags of heroin. In 2012, it was 259 cases involving nearly 900 doses.

And the increased supply appears to have led to a staggering rise in the number of fatal overdoses.

I-Team 10 checked in with the Medical Examiner's Office and discovered that from January through August of last year. There were 14 heroin related deaths. Over the next eight months, September 2012 until just this past April, the number surged to 41.
Experts believe the reason for the spike in heroin cases here may be connected to the rise in addictions to other opioids like hydrocodone and oxycontin. Those drugs tend to be more expensive than heroin and a crackdown has made many of those narcotics less available.

As if those numbers aren't frightening enough, a public safety alert went out Friday just down the Thruway in Buffalo where heroin is now being sold on the streets laced with the potent pain killer fentanyl.

William Hochul, U.S. Attorney, said,  "This drug is so potent, so dangerous that all of us have agreed we should come to you, the media in hopes of educating, first the public of the possible consequences of this drug."

Brett Davidsen, I-Team Investigator, said, “So what is the potential here if someone is getting heroin that's laced with this fentanyl?”

Wesley said, "Huge respiratory depression, meaning you just stop breathing. You might be awake and your lungs just stop working."

Wesley says so far none of the laced heroin has shown up here. But with heroin use on the rise, it may just be a matter of time.

Dale Kasprzyk, Drug Enforcement Agency, said, "Listen, the economics of drug traffickers are pretty simple. They sell drugs so that they can make money. And drug traffickers will do whatever they can to try to draw business to themselves."

The number of those using and overdosing on heroin is trending younger. The overwhelming majority of those fatal cases are Caucasian and they are men.