A recent report on drug trends in Ohio reflects black tar heroin is on the rise - not a surprise considering recent headlines.

And the trend holds true in the Scioto Valley, according to a representative from the Paint Valley Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board.

The Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network conducted the research, which found three key drug trends in Ohio - heroin abuse, prescription drug abuse in combination with alcohol abuse among young people and prescription drug abuse in combination with alcohol abuse among senior citizens.

The findings suggest increasing levels of "black tar" heroin use in several OSAM reporting areas and a higher rate of treatment admissions for heroin abuse among white youths and young adults often from suburban backgrounds. Juni Frey, associate director of the Paint Valley Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board, said the trend toward heroin in the area is the same.

"We have seen an increase in abuse and addiction of black tar heroin in our counties, especially along (U.S.) 23," Frey said.

Paint Valley ADAMH serves as the mental health, alcohol and drug addiction planning agency for Fayette, Highland, Pickaway, Pike and Ross counties.

Law enforcement recognizes that U.S. 23 is a mainline for drug trafficking within Ohio, a fact that led to the creation of the U.S. 23 Pipeline Major Crimes Task Force. In addition to undercover work and search warrants, the task force also has worked in Ross and Pike counties on Multi-Agency Police Saturation operations with a goal of collecting on warrants, specifically secret drug indictments.

The last MAPS operation in Ross County included 40 secret indictments on drug charges, specifically cocaine, even though OSAM reported cocaine and crack cocaine usage has remained relatively constant, along with marijuana. During that June operation, Ross County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Don Hayburn also reported an increase of heroin in the area over the past five years.

OSAM, a research partnership among the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services, Wright State University and the University of Akron, also reported increased diversion and abuse of methadone tablets and wafers in most reporting areas, as well as an increase in the diversion of methadone liquid in the Columbus and Toledo areas.

The report indicated continuing increases in heroin abuse are consistently related to prior abuse of prescription pain medications.

According to Frey, heroin addiction is not an easy one to kick.

"It's harder for them to grasp hold of the principles of recovery and get clean and stay clean," Frey said.

Availability is one factor to increased use of a controlled substance, Frey said. Earlier this month, two dozen people were accused of participating in a heroin ring believed to be connected to the deaths of at least 10 in Huntington, W.Va. According to Associated Press reports, the suspected ringleader ran the operation out of Columbus.

Lack of availability also has an impact in drug use. OSAM reported lack of street availability has led to the decline in use of methamphetamine and OxyContin.

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