July 4, 2015
By KATIE WHITE, Salem News
LISBON – Demand for illegal drugs in the county may always exist, but the Drug Task Force is working hard to eliminate the supply, according to DTF director Brian McLaughlin.
Speaking during a recent drug abuse education training seminar at David Anderson High School, McLaughlin also cautioned county residents to educate themselves before voting on any future legislation that proposes to legalize marijuana.
Referring to the movement in Ohio to legalize the drug, he said a recent study conducted by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (RMHIDTA) shows legalization has far-reaching effects.
The study is available online at www.rmhidta.org and is the result of the legalization of marijuana in Colorado.
“There were shocking numbers in that study. We need to be informed before we go to the poll to get that on the ballot,” he said. “It is astronomical the number of accidents they have had … they have actually had deaths from marijuana. Get the whole story.”
He added that, yes, it is possible to overdose from the drug.
He also provided a graph from 2010 showing marijuana use is higher in the nation than other illegal substances and prescription painkillers, the latter of which typically leads to other narcotic abuse like heroin.
The local marijuana cost is about $10 for a gram and $200 for an ounce, which is 28.35 grams. A pound of the drug, or 453.59 grams, can run anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000, he said.
Other drugs with a presence in the county include heroin, meth, cocaine, crack cocaine, ecstasy, bath salts, and the psilocybin mushroom, he added.
“We are not any different from any other state, any other place in this country. Heroin is a problem,” he said.
According to McLaughlin, an “explosion” of heroin use in the county between 2003 and 2004 can be traced back to oxycodone.
He said that since the task force’s creation in 1991 until 2003 the force took .09 grams of heroin off the streets. In 2004, agents took 1,400 unit doses off the streets.
The increase was the result of the task force’s removal of a doctor they found was prescribing oxycodone in the tri-county area. The force worked alongside Mahoning and Jefferson counties on the investigation.
“The company that produced oxycodone did not do a good job of educating doctors. That drug was meant for terminal cancer patients to make them comfortable until the end,” he said.
Once oxycodone users no longer had access to prescriptions, they turned to heroin, he explained, adding that moving from painkillers to heroin is typical since heroin it cheaper to purchase.
“Heroin replaced oxycodone at that point,” he said.
Local prices for heroin are around $20 per bag, which is roughly .03 grams. That national average is $200 per gram.
He said the force is no longer seeing unit doses in the county, but grams.
While state legislation could move to free up one drug for recreational use, it has been used to crack down on meth labs, he said.
The discovery of the county’s first active meth lab was in 2003 and legislation paved the way for officials to charge people with a third-degree felony for clandestine labs, he said.
“Legislators got serious about this,” he said.
The force is finding meth mainly in the northwest part of the county and average enforcement for its manufacture is six years in prison, he said.
He also said makers are usually users as well and officials can track them thanks to a computer database that stores information from the required identification provided for the purchase of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine at local pharmacies.
“If we are watching somebody for cooking we can actually see that they went and bought what they needed” to make meth, he said.
He also cautioned people to stay away from picking up any bottles on the ground as part of any cleanup efforts, or just being a good citizen, since meth labs are being disposed of on the street.
“It has been happening in our county. There was one in Center Township, one in Madison Township last summer,” he said.
The bottles feature a powdery or liquid substance and are capable of causing a flash fire.
People are encouraged to call the task force or county sheriff’s office if they suspect any illegal drug activity.
Funding for the free educational seminar was provided by the county mental health and recovery services board, and the event was sponsored by the board, county commissioners, task force, common pleas court, counseling center, recovery center, and ADAPT coalition.