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Heroin Education Continues Following Overdose Cases

Experts say cheaper and stronger heroin is leading to more usage in South County.

Heroin use in St. Louis County continues to capture the attention of residents, police and health organizations as the substance has killed 49 people in the area so far this year.

More than 300 people gathered at Monday night for a town hall meeting hosted by the St. Louis County Police and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (NCADA). The meeting follows a that centered on the dangers and signs of heroin use and included a presentation from Dan Duncan with the NCADA.

St. Louis County saw 60 heroin overdoses in 2010 with 75 percent of those deaths being men. The most common age range for deaths was between 25 and 30.

“It’s an overwhelmingly large issue in South and West County,” said Capt. Chuck Borschert, commander of the West County Precinct. Borschert was also in charge of the Drug Unit before moving to West County.

Methods of delivery have added to the heroin problem in St. Louis County. Users are now buying and concealing heroin in empty capsules that can be purchased at pharmacies. Called “buttons,” Borschert said 1/20 of a gram in these capsules costs only $10 and creates a high that lasts three to five hours.

Along with a cheaper price, heroin is getting more potent. In 2001, the average purity level was 13 percent. Last year, it jumped to 38 percent and now, more than 15 percent of heroin found is 75 percent pure. An inconsistency in purity explains most heroin overdoses, Borschert said. It’s why several first-time users die.

The cheapened cost, along with a more addictive substance also leads to a more desperate user. Borschert said heroin users often commit crimes such as vehicle larceny, copper thefts and shoplifting and many local crimes can be traced back to the drug.

Police say heroin was behind a .

Kirkwood Patch Editor Owen Skoler contributed to this report.

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