Our Opinion: Community must act to eradicate scourge of heroin

News Tribune editorial

A serial killer is at work in Central Missouri and elsewhere. Heroin is an illegal, addictive, destructive and deadly drug. It is indiscriminate; it preys on men and women, young and old, rich and poor. It promises a temporary high and exacts prolonged pain and suffering. Last week, two local residents were arrested and charged with possession of heroin with intent to distribute. The Associated Press recently reported authorities in the St. Louis area also identify heroin as the cause for an increase in crime, including three homicides last week believed to be related to heroin use. Elsewhere on this page, local educator and parent Jim Marshall describes the profound loss of a child who died of a heroin overdose.

Heroin has no redeeming value.

Cole County Sheriff Greg White characterizes heroin as a “coping drug.” The description is accurate, but once the effects of the drug wear off, the coping resumes, complicated by all the negative consequences of illegal drug use.

Imprisonment, addiction and death are among those consequences.

An added danger of heroin is users rarely know precisely what they are purchasing or ingesting. The purity of or additives to the substance both pose problems.

Local authorities are responding.

The Jefferson City Police Department and Cole County Sheriff Department have announced an initiative to combat the increased prevalence of heroin in our community.

But they know, and we agree, that this must be a community effort. Our law enforcement agencies intend to gather additional data to quantify the scope of the problem in their jurisdictions. “We want to get real numbers to give us a true picture of what we are up against,” said Police Capt. Doug Shoemaker.

They also plan to encourage community groups to become involved in an awareness campaign aimed at both adults and youths. These are vital initial steps, but we all have a role to play. We — every one of us — are the eyes and ears of this community. When we see suspicious activity, we must report it to authorities.

We face a new challenge. The scourge of heroin no longer is confined to the major metropolitan areas. It is on our doorstep. Inaction is not an option.

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