Study: State ranks top in opioid ‘scripts

Published 1:02 am Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Local LEOs: Pills, heroin are problems here

Alabama residents have more opioid prescriptions than any other state in the nation, a national study released by Wallet.hub this week found.

It’s a problem local law enforcement officers are all too familiar with.

“It’s a problem all over it seems like. It’s becoming an epidemic,” Covington County Sheriff Dennis Meeks said. “We’re trying to keep kids off of it and bring awareness of the dangers of it with our Drug Task Force and the programs that they do.”

The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines opioids as opiates ranging from legal pain relievers all the way up to heroin.

Opp Police Chief Mike McDonald said one area of concern for law enforcement is that opiate abuse can lead to the use of more illicit drugs like heroin, which is becoming more prevalent in the area.

“These areas that have high opiate use before long find a heroin market has moved in,” McDonald said. “Heroin is stronger and the catch is that it’s usually cheaper than the pills and there is absolutely no doubt that heroin kills, and that is the something we have to look for as a result of opiate abuse.”

Law enforcement and health officials are attempting to curb the abuse with more and more education programs in the area.

“We teach programs throughout the school systems with our Drug Task Force,” Meeks said. “We also talk to civic organizations and different church groups to try and get the word out wherever we can on the dangers of these drugs.”

McDonald agrees that educating students and adults alike is a huge factor in trying to curb the abuse.

“We need to continue these education programs – between us and the medical field – to educate people to the dangers of these drugs,” McDonald said. “Other than that we have to continue the enforcement effort to try and prevent it.”

Meeks said that providing treatment for those addicted to opiates is another point of emphasis that needs to continue.

“If we don’t treat them, it will end up killing them. But at the same time, people have to take responsibility for their own actions, too,” Meeks said. “Of course, we want to give treatment to those who need it and are trying to get off of these drugs, and we will do whatever we can to help them.”

Long-time 22nd Judicial Drug Task Force Agent Greg Jackson said that heroin and prescription pills are definitely a problem in Covington County.

“We work every day to try and combat drug usage in Covington County,” Jackson said. “Meth has long been a problem here. But, prescription pills are a huge problem and we are seeing more heroin.”

Jackson said that leads and tips from the community are pertinent for fighting the war on drugs.

“If you see any illegal drug activity – and we know it’s prevalent – call our office,” he said.

Those calls can be anonymous at 334-222-3532.