The use of heroin in the St. Louis area is at epidemic levels, according to law enforcement officials.
The number of heroin overdoses and deaths has doubled in the St. Louis County and city over the past four years. St. Louis County Chief of Police Tim Fitch said the drug is cheaper now and it can be snorted or smoked, instead of injected. He said it's no longer just an urban issue.
"Most of the heroin users live in the west and south areas of the county," Fitch said."But we see them driving in from Bowling Green, Wentzville, Jefferson County. So most of the users are suburban users."
Harry Summers, the Drug Enforcement Agency's special agent in charge in St. Louis, says the reasons heroin use has jumped are easy to identify. Poppy production doubled in Mexico in 2008, the purity of the drug has increased, and, Summers said, heroin has become too easy to use.
"They don't need to inject it anymore. You can smoke it, you can snort it and there are other delivery methods but those are the most popular," Summers said. "It makes the drug seem like, in the minds of young people, to be a recreational drug. Clearly heroin is not. You can see by the deaths."
Over the next two months, police departments will be stepping up their heroin education efforts, their crackdown on dealers and helping users with treatment options.
For more on the situation surrounding heroin in the St. Louis region, check out our "Heroin Addiction" edition of St. Louis on the Air.