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Heroin, Fentanyl Threaten Alcorn County

This map from the DEA’s 2016 National Drug Threat Assessment shows areas in red that viewed heroin as the greatest drug threat. (Source: DEA)

By Josh Mitchell

Corinth Today News Editor

Corinth and Alcorn County law enforcement officials are concerned that the highly potent drug fentanyl could become a problem locally.

“That’s going to be something we all deal with in the near future is this epidemic in fentanyl,” said Corinth Police Chief Ralph Dance. “It’s something we’ve all got to be concerned about and watch for.”

Alcorn County Sheriff Ben Caldwell agreed that fentanyl is a growing threat to the region. There are also signs that heroin is becoming a bigger problem, officials say.

Addicts often turn to heroin because it is cheaper than buying prescription painkillers on the street, Caldwell said. Users build a tolerance to prescription drugs and need more to get high, which becomes very costly.

Sheriff Ben Caldwell

Caldwell, a former Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agent, worries that fatal drug overdoses in Alcorn County will increase if more users turn to heroin. Heroin has many different levels of quality and potency, which can easily lead to users taking a fatal dose, Caldwell noted.

Fentanyl can be 50 times more potent than heroin, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. That’s why the Alcorn County Sheriff’s Office and the Corinth Police Department have been provided with Narcan, which can reverse the effects of a fentanyl overdose.

This gives law enforcement a chance to save the life of an overdose victim. Narcan also protects officers if they accidentally touch or ingest fentanyl.

The concerns raised by Caldwell and Dance regarding heroin and fentanyl are consistent with a 2016 DEA report, which said heroin availability is “likely to increase in the near term.” The DEA also predicted that the “fentanyl market will continue to expand . . .”

Meth Remains Biggest Problem

While the sheriff and police chief are concerned about the growing threat from heroin and fentanyl, methamphetamine is currently the biggest drug problem for the local area, they said.

“It’s in every small community,” Dance said. “When it’s coming in here in so many different ways, you just can’t keep up with it.”

Police Chief Ralph Dance

The chief thinks the meth problem is a bigger epidemic than crack cocaine was in the 1990s.

Caldwell said methamphetamine is “just being pumped into north Mississippi” and the Southeast as a whole.

“We’ve seen the price drop on methamphetamine tremendously,” Caldwell said, adding that the amount of meth in this area has “really increased” in the last several years. In 2014, an ounce of meth cost about $1,200, and today it is about $650, the sheriff said.

Most of the methamphetamine in the United States comes from Mexico, officials say. Meth produced in Mexico is “particularly pure and potent,” and the wholesale distribution is controlled by cartels, according to the DEA. Some cartels may operate in rural areas to keep a lower profile.

Similar to much of the nation, Alcorn County has seen a steep decline in local meth labs in the wake of new laws that have made it more difficult to purchase the drug’s ingredients. However, this has not resulted in a decline in the meth problem since the drug is now purchased after being shipped in from Mexico. Caldwell and Dance said there are a number of ways meth gets into Alcorn County, such as through the mail and people traveling to other states to pick up loads.

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