THOMASVILLE, N.C. -- The Thomasville Police Department has seen a nearly 500 percent spike in heroin-related crimes in the last 12 months as compared to the 12 months before that.
Thomasville Police investigated 53 heroin related incidents from August 2012 to August 2013 compared to just 11 between August 2011 and August 2012.
"Prescription painkillers have become pricier and harder to use. Addicts across the United States are turning to heroin," said Lieutenant Brad Saintsing.
Law enforcement officers now have access to a national database of prescription opioid users. They can see who has been prescribed what and by which doctors. It allows them to spot violations.
Keeping track of heroin use is much more difficult.
"As addicts of painkillers become more tolerant and no longer receiving a 'high' from painkillers, they are turning to the cheaper, more potent and more accessible drug which is heroin," Saintsing said.
Nationally, the Wall Street Journal reported a 55 percent rise in the number of heroin user from 2000 to 2010 and a more than 53 percent rise in the number of people who said they'd used heroin in the last year during the same time period.
In Thomasville, Saintsing said 28 percent of drug overdoses between August 2013 and August 2012 were due to heroin use, up 14 percent from the previous 12 months.
"The vast majority of people who were addicted to prescription drugs are now looking for opiates. We are seeing it used by teenagers and people in their early 20’s. The same amount of money people normally spend on one pill can pay for an amount of heroin to keep them high for one day," Saintsing said.