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Local Man Dead After Possible Heroin Overdose: Grellner Weighs In On Drug Deaths
By: Nathan Woodside, St. Clair Missourian Editor 10/06/2009
A St. Clair man died Sunday of an apparent heroin overdose in the same bedroom his friend met the same alleged fate just months ago.
According to St. Clair Police Chief Bill Hammack, officers responded to 425 West Davis St. at 12:49 a.m. regarding a deceased subject identified as a 22-year-old St. Clair man.
Hammack said heroin and drug paraphernalia were located in the bedroom with the man.
The official cause of death will not be determined until toxicology tests are final.
On April 1 of this year, police responded to the same bedroom where another 26-year-old man died from a confirmed heroin overdose.
The home is occupied by the latest overdose victim's family and the previous victim was visiting the home when he died in April.
Hammack said the man was found unconscious and unresponsive in his bedroom by a family member.
If toxicology reports are confirmed, it's the latest overdose death in what is becoming an epidemic in Franklin County.
"We've seen an increase in heroin overdoses and heroin arrests in the last few years," Hammack said. "I know we've had three deaths from heroin overdoses in the city of St. Clair in the last year."
The man's death could officially be the first from a heroin overdose in October for Franklin County. There were four suspected overdose deaths in September.
"It's something that we're trying to address and the task force is taking steps with the authorities in St. Louis," Hammack said.
Why the Spike?
The metropolitan area is where it's coming from, according to Franklin County Drug Task Force Detective Sgt. Jason Grellner. Most of it, he said, is being produced in Mexico.
Grellner said there are several reasons that could be attributed to the recent spike in drug-related deaths.
The main factor could be in the ways the heroin is cut-in content and purity. Toxicology reports have yet to come back on the recent deaths. Grellner said the drug may have been mixed with a prescription drug such as fentanyl, a pain medication more powerful than morphine.
Grellner said a batch of heroin came through the area a few years ago that way and caused some overdose deaths.
Another possible cause is a heightened purity level.
" I heard from the St. Louis DEA last week that purity levels have been seen as high as 60 or 70 percent where, in the past, purity levels were as low as 20 or 30 percent," Grellner said.
The purity level, according to Grellner, has everything to do with the street dealer.
Drug prices are determined by weight. Some dealers cut the drug with substances that increase its volume, while decreasing its potency.
"Although three users may get the same amount, one may not cut it at all, one may cut it in half, one may cut it in a third," Grellner said. "We know that the availability in the St. Louis metropolitan area has gone up. There is more heroin available and that may cause some of the dealers not to cut it as much because sometimes when availability goes up, the price goes down. It all comes down to who's cutting the heroin and what they're cutting it with. That's the danger with any street drug. You don't know one time to the next what you're getting from a drug dealer."
Grellner also said that heroin users from a large area tend to know each other and could easily be getting the same, more dangerous, heroin from the same suppliers in St. Louis.
"Those in the drug subculture, at one point or another, come to know each other," he said. "In heroin, a lot of people know each other. That stems from many of our heroin users driving into St. Louis to pick up heroin and bring it back to Franklin County. You end up with people catching rides with other people or sending their money with other people, or buying from each other."
Grellner added that first-time or inexperienced users are also susceptible to overdoses.
"In these situations, we don't believe that's the case," he said.