By Josh Mitchell
Corinth Today News Editor
As Corinth and Alcorn County law enforcement prepare for a possible increase in heroin and fentanyl, the neighboring states of Alabama and Tennessee have already seen spikes in those substances.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency seized 3,769 grams of heroin in 2015 and 2,067 grams last year compared to only 27 grams five years ago.
“Beginning in 2013, heroin began to take over the opiate market, and seizure of pills declined steadily,” Special Agent Paul Hayes with the Alabama State Bureau of Investigation said in a statement to Corinth Today.
Alcorn County Sheriff Ben Caldwell has expressed concerns that heroin could increase locally since it is cheaper than buying prescription painkillers on the street. Caldwell fears that this could lead to more fatal overdoses in Alcorn County.
Black Tar heroin has also arrived in Alabama and has been seized in the past six months, Hayes said.
“Prior to these recent seizures, black tar heroin had not been seized in Alabama in 20-plus years,” Hayes added. “It typically had been more prevalent in the northern part of the U.S. but not in the South. The lower cost of black tar heroin has made it a viable product in this market.”
Caldwell and Corinth Police Chief Ralph Dance are also concerned about possible increases in fentanyl locally.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency seized 8,200 grams of fentanyl in 2016 and 2,677 grams last year.
“We are also seeing a high volume of various strains of fentanyl here,” Hayes said.
Most of the fentanyl is imported from China via common mail carriers, he said.
“We have identified Butylfentanyl, Acetylfentanyl, Acrylfentanyl, as well as regular fentanyl,” Hayes added.
The Alabama agency’s first fentanyl seizures were in 2016, but Hayes said that does not mean the drug was not present before then.
“When fentanyl initially hit the streets, it was marketed and sold as if it were heroin.” Hayes said. “So with that said, it is possible that some of the heroin we seized was actually fentanyl.”
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency emphasizes the importance of partnerships between local, county and federal agencies “to combat the heroin/fentanyl epidemic,” Hayes said. It has “steadily increased our public education efforts on the dangers of heroin/fentanyl.”
A recently formed Alabama Drug Enforcement Task Force gives local officers statewide jurisdiction to “follow cases that originate in their area but travel outside of their normal enforcement boundaries . . .”
Fentanyl can be up to 50 times stronger than heroin, and local law enforcement officials have been provided with Narcan, which can be administered to reverse the effects of an overdose and save lives.