Duluth police chief: More young people turning to heroinThe Duluth City Council took time Monday night to learn more about the city’s growing problems with heroin use.
By: Peter Passi, Duluth News Tribune
The Duluth City Council took time Monday night to learn more about the city’s growing problems with heroin use.
“Heroin has literally destroyed my son’s life,” said Jodie Blegen of her 20-year-old child.
“This is not just a Duluth problem. It’s a national problem,” said Duluth Police Chief Gordon Ramsay.
But Ramsay expressed concern about increasing numbers of young people graduating from prescription opiate-based drugs to heroin on the streets of Duluth.
It’s a familiar story to Blegen, who said her son began using OxyContin in Duluth at age 16 and switched to heroin when he could no longer afford to purchase the prescription drugs locally.
Ramsay said that beginning in 2010, Duluth police began to see widespread use of opiate-based drugs.
“We had a significant amount of Opana and OxyContin, mostly out of Detroit, until 2011, when we arrested a number of people and stopped the flow for a while,” he said.
After 27 prescription drug indictments were made in the third quarter of 2013, Ramsay said they saw a troubling development.
“We saw people switching to heroin,” he said, noting that the trend has continued.
Ramsay said most of the drug being sold in Duluth is brown heroin, usually produced in Mexico and distributed by way of Chicago. He said the drug commands a higher price in Duluth than Chicago, because dealers know they run a greater risk of getting busted in a smaller city.
Ramsay explained that local users run the constant risk of an overdose because they rarely know how pure the heroin they buy may be. He said that when a potent batch arrives on the scene, the number of overdoses spikes. Both this summer and last, the city has seen as many as four heroin overdoses in a single weekend.
Blegen said she lives in constant fear of receiving a call about her own son dying with a needle in his arm.
“For me it’s like watching my child drown, and there’s nothing I can do to save him,” she said.
The highly addictive nature of heroin makes many users desperate to score their next fix, and Ramsay said large numbers turn to crime in an effort to feed their habit. He said that of 1,740 drug arrests the police department has made in recent months, 511 — or 42 percent — have involved individuals previous arrested for property crimes, such as burglary, vehicle prowls, forgery, identity theft or robbery.
Blegen said her son no longer seems to care about much of anything except his next high.
“We can’t trust him. No one believes him or wants him around. He has no sober friends, and after four years of using, his criminal activities due to his addiction are catching up to him, and he has been in and out of jail. He is homeless and completely lost, jobless and certainly in no condition to be employed,” she said. “He’ll steal anything that isn’t bolted down.”