Heroin is increasingly common in Sedgwick County

Published: Oct. 11, 2016 at 10:42 PM CDT
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Law enforcement in Sedgwick County say they're seeing more heroin use in Wichita. The Wichita Police Department says the amount of heroin it finds on the streets has doubled compared to a few years ago - it's now nearly as common as meth.

One addiction treatment center says opiate addiction is now the most common drug addiction it treats.

Across the country some police departments have started equipping officers with Narcan, a medication that can counter effects of an opioid overdose in minutes.

Given the rise in heroin use in the Wichita area, Eyewitness News asked local law enforcement if they're considering providing Narcan for their officers.

"It's killing a lot of people, damaging a lot of families, a lot of of lives," said Cody Beaton, addressing opiate abuse. He's the director of addiction treatment at Prairie View, a mental health center in Newton. "There's really an epidemic," he said.

"After alcohol, opiates has been the second most common addiction that comes into our treatment center. And that's really picked up last year and into this year," Beaton said.

It can start with a simple prescription.

"Oxycotin, oxycodone, Percocet... a lot of people start with prescription opiates due to chronic pain, wisdom teeth surgery," Beaton said.

He says the problem is, prescription opiates and heroin have very similar effects and it's easy to get addicted.

Once your prescription runs out, a single pain pill on the street can cost about $40.

"A similar amount or value of heroin for about $15, so it's quite a bit cheaper," Beaton said.

The Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office says it's noticed heroin becoming more common in the past six months.

"We have seen a bit of an increase in the availability of heroin on the streets of Sedgwick County," said Lin Dehning, a lieutenant with the sheriff's office.

Police officers in some cities have started using Narcan to combat heroin overdose. Wichita police say they're not considering it yet, but say the amount of heroin on the street has doubled in the last few years.

"If the first responder happens to be a police officer and they have that option of being able to administer that, it could save a lot of lives," Beaton said.

Beaton says part of the answer to the problem - doctors need to prescribe more responsibly.

"It should be made known upfront when these prescriptions are provided, this is a medication that could lead to issues down the road," Bearton said.

He says you can also protect yourself by knowing the dangers of a prescription, the signs of addiction, and only taking medication as prescribed.

Narcan is typically used on patients who are overdosing, but the Sedgwick County Sheriff's office is considering equipping their deputies with Narcan for the safety of the deputies themselves.

That's after a deputy was accidentally exposed to an opiate earlier this year. The deputy was going over evidence and opened a bag that contained fentanyl, breathed some in, and collapsed.

"We take the safety of our deputies very seriously," Dehning said. "We're looking at the purchase of it. We haven't started doing any training yet, but we are looking into that seriously right now," he said.

Dehning says the Narcan would be for deputies exposed to an opiate while searching someone or at a crime scene.