Heroin invades rural Alaska
Heroin’s growing popularity could be because it fills a void left by law-enforcement crackdowns on prescription pill abuse and on the sale of ingredients used in methamphetamine.
Anchorage Daily News
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Heroin is increasingly finding its way into Alaska’s rural communities, a symptom of what authorities describe as a recent boom in the drug’s popularity.
In the past four years, state investigators said, the drug has been more common in all parts of Alaska, including rural villages. Drug investigators say its use crosses socioeconomic boundaries.
In 2012 and 2013, the state’s annual drug reports observed an increase in heroin’s availability throughout Alaska and concluded that “it is no longer isolated to urban areas.”
Police in Nome started to find syringes in hotel rooms. Larger amounts of heroin have turned up in Kodiak drug busts, signaling what one narcotics officer described as a “gold rush” of black-market drug sales across the state.
“We are finding it in a lot of the villages out in western Alaska now,” said Lt. Katherine Peterson of the Alaska Bureau of Investigations, which oversees the statewide drug-enforcement unit. “I can’t tell you in every village. But it is certainly unlike years ago.”
In 2009, authorities made 64 heroin-related charges and arrests in Alaska. Four years later, that number has more than doubled, to 151 charges and arrests in 2013.
The figure spiked between 2011 and 2012, to 146 from 118, Peterson said.
In the 2012 drug report, the state medical examiner’s office said heroin-related deaths were also on the rise.
Theories for what is fueling heroin’s popularity in Alaska include filling a void left by law-enforcement crackdowns on prescription pill abuse and on the sale of ingredients used in methamphetamine.
In a January bust that was their biggest yet, Kodiak police seized 76 grams of black tar heroin and 28 grams of Afghan brown heroin, plus other drugs.