A combination of prescription drug and heroin use is on the rise in Waukesha County, leading to drug deaths in the suburban communities, according to law enforcement.
“Pharmaceuticals, the diverted type, the ones that are used for not their intended purpose, that is our biggest threat in combination of heroin,” said Waukesha County Sheriff's Department Capt. Chuck Wood, during Thursday evening's Drug Free Communities Waukesha County presentation at Steinhafels Furniture.
The problem with prescription drugs is that people tend to view them as safe drugs, Wood said, but then become addicted to the substances. Illegal use of prescription drugs is an expensive habit and people will switch to heroin.
Heroin is “highly, highly addictive,” Wood explained. Wood shared a video that included a young man explaining to a TV reporter how he was trying to change his life around and clean up from his drug addiction. That young man later had a relapse and died from a drug overdose, Wood told the small group listening.
“Most of our heroin comes from South America,” said Wood, commander of the Waukesha County Metro Drug Unit, which includes police departments in Waukesha, Menomonee Falls, Brookfield and Muskego. “The purity levels we are seeing up here are incredible right now. It used be about 13 to 17 percent. Now it is high as 83 percent.
“… Even an experienced heroin user, if they have been using heroin at 17 percent and go up to 83 percent, the effects of the narcotic can kill them.”
The Waukesha County Medical Examiner’s Office investigated 31 fatal overdose deaths in 2010 and 29 of those deaths were from illegal drug use, Wood said.
“The unfortunate thing is we are trending to have a new record of deaths each year,” Wood said.
Waukesha County used to have minimal problems with heroin use. “Now it is half of what we do,” Wood said.
In 2008, Waukesha County confiscated 547.5 grams of pharmaceuticals, 304.5 grams in 2009 and 202 in 2010, according to information in Wood’s presentation. Heroin busts have increased in recent years. In 2007, the Waukesha County Metro Drug Unit recovered 0.1 grams of heroin. That number grew to 166.3 grams of heroin in 2008, 199.74 grams in 2009 and 115.1 grams in 2010.
While the amount seized fluctuates from year to year, the use of heroin and prescription drugs in this area is greater than it was several years ago. Specifically with heroin use, when limited amounts recovered by law enforcement increased drastically from 2007 to 2008.
However, a “silver lining” in the sobering drug statistics in Waukesha County is the decline of cocaine. Cocaine use has declined since the drug unit made a major bust a few years back, Wood said.
“We had quite a large organization that was distributing cocaine in Waukesha County,” Wood said.
People can bring prescription medication, over-the-counter medication, ointments, sprays, inhalers, creams, vials, herbals, pet medication and mercury during a drug collection scheduled for Saturday, May 14.
People should not bring biohazardous materials, household hazardous waste, bulk prescription drug samples and personal hygiene samples.
The drug collection will run from 9 a.m. to noon at Waukesha State Bank’s downtown Waukesha location.
Other collection places include:
- Ruby Isle Shopping Center, 2205 N. Calhoun Road, Brookfield.
- Community Memorial Hospital, W180-N8085 Town Hal Road, Menomonee Falls.
- D.N. Greenwald Center, 240 W. Maple Ave., Mukwonago
- Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital, 791 Summit Ave., Oconomowoc.
- Waukesha County Technical College (open until 1 p.m.), 800 Main St., Pewaukee