Officials seek to educate community on heroin

A small crowd of Fulton area residents and community leaders takes in a heroin educational program Thursday night at Fulton City Hall.

A small crowd of Fulton area residents and community leaders takes in a heroin educational program Thursday night at Fulton City Hall. Photo by Katherine Cummins.

A recovering addict herself, Carol lost her son to a heroin overdose four years ago — one month before his 18th birthday.

The Fulton Police Department hopes that by hosting a HOPE (Heroin Overdose Prevention and Education) meeting Thursday night, they can keep that from happening to other local families.

For several hours, community members and leaders gathered at Fulton City Hall heard from law enforcement, treatment and recovery experts and recovering addicts regarding how they can help keep heroin from become a big problem in Fulton.

Detective Michael Ottolini with the Jefferson City Police Department’s Community Action Team started off by sharing area statistics and what signs to look for when trying to determine if a family member or loved one is using heroin.

“Fulton sometimes starts to mirror Jefferson City as far as drug problems go, just as we mirror Columbia, so I think this is good information for you to hear,” said Ottolini, who has worked narcotics for four years.

Defining the problem

Ottolini said there are three main varieties of heroin — China White, Mexican Brown and Black Tar. The most commonly seen form in Jefferson City and Cole County is China White, with approximately 80 percent of that supply coming from Afghanistan by way of Canada, then Milwaukee, Chicago and finally St. Louis before arriving here.

“The whiter the substance, the more pure it is. China White is predominantly what we see here in mid-Missouri — it’s a highly pure form of heroin from Afghanistan and southeast Asia.

According to Ottolini, heroin started overtaking marijuana and crack cocaine as the drug of choice in the area in fall of 2008. He attributed that in part due to a decrease in cocaine traffic coming out of Mexico, and the fact that heroin hooks users so quickly. He also pointed out that there is more money to be made selling heroin.

“There’s just a lot of money involved, and it’s very easy to get people addicted — they very quickly have to use large amounts just to feel normal. The profit of heroin is three times that of cocaine,” Ottolini said, noting that one-tenth of a gram of cocaine goes for $20.

He said heroin is often seen packaged in small baggies, aluminum foil or in capsules that have been emptied and replaced with the drug.

Like many other drugs, heroin often is cut with other substances before being sold to users. Ottoline said the biggest problem with heroin and heroin overdoses is, “you don’t know the purity level — you have no idea what you’re getting.”

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