Ozaukee County has for years battled upward trends in the use of heroin — a drug that isn’t just detrimental for the user, but to the entire county — but has never experienced trafficking and abuse at levels as high as they are now, according to law enforcement with the .
The amount of heroin ceased by police in 2010 was up 133 percent from 2009, and could be even higher this year, according to the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Office annual report.
Supervisor of the Ozaukee County Anti-Drug Taskforce Lt. Rodney Galbraith said that though confiscation numbers might not always reflect actual trends, he believes heroin in the county is at an "all-time high."
"I would have never ever expected or anticipated that we would have both young and old people that use heroin in Ozaukee County," Galbraith said. "It is such a devastating drug."
It's not just youth that are using
It may be a general assumption that the younger generation is the root of these drug problems, but older citizens, even parents, have been lured into heroin’s spell just as drastically as younger people, Galbraith said.
Stephanie F. Bailey, a 28-year-old Addison woman, was with her 7-year-old daughter chaperoning a school trip to Pioneer Park in Saukville when she was found unconscious in the park bathroom with four small bags of heroin, and other drug paraphernalia including hypodermic needles.
Bailey, who was with students from Wayne Elementary School in the Kewaskum district, was charged on Oct. 10 with one count of felony narcotic possession and one count of possessing drug paraphernalia. She faces up to 3 1/2 years in prison and fines of $10,000 if convicted.
Galbraith also mentioned a case involving West Bend parents who had their children taken from them by Social Services because of heroin, but continued to use regardless.
"With the majority of the people who use, the addiction gets so bad that their life becomes encompassed with heroin," Galbraith said. "And it gets to the point where people will do almost anything to feed that addiction. ... Largely, a good portion of the crimes are all about heroin. Credit card fraud, selling of stolen merchandise; it’s all turned into cash which is then turned into the drugs."
Heroin-related crimes also includes theft and, according to Galbraith, nearly all of the property crimes under recent investigation have been heroin-related.
In a particular pending case, two Milwaukee men were arrested in the Ozaukee County jurisdiction for a burglary. They were hired by a drug dealer. Their reward? A heroin payout.
The drug-provoked crime doesn’t stop there either, Galbraith said. There were a multitude of auto-related crimes this summer where cars were burglarized. Port Washington had roughly 20 different cases that were, in all likelihood, directly related to heroin, according to Galbraith.
Heroin addiction: 'All it takes is once'
"Once you take heroin, the odds are very high that your life will never be the same again," Galbraith said. "All it takes is once; you just have to be talked into it once."
Where do most of these addictions stem from? According to Gail Bruss, a program coordinator at Starting Point in Ozaukee County — a nonprofit, comprehensive drug and alcohol resource center — people who become addicted to pain pills often turn to heroin.
“When opioids become scarce or too expensive, heroin becomes the cheaper option," Bruss said.
Prescription drugs such as Vicodin and Suboxone are used to treat heroin and opioid addictions, but police are seeing addicts flip their prescriptions for more heroin, an even more dangerous drug.
"It’s kind of a vicious circle in some ways," Galbraith said. "These drugs are meant to help recovering addicts, but for some of them it is only feeding their addiction."
Treatment admission for prescription drug abuse rose 430 percent nationwide from 1999 to 2009, according to government reports.
Galbraith acknowledged the rise he’s seen in prescription pill abuse in the area, and recent arrests of Port Washington High School students for drug possession supports this as well.
“One out of 20 high school students take opiates for nonmedical reasons," Bruss said. "And the connection between prescription opiate use and heroin use is unmistakable."
A deadly game to play
Maybe the most devastating aspect of the addiction to heroin is the idea of overdosing. Galbraith said he’s investigated three overdose cases since 2010, two of which involved morphine, which is a pain killer that heroin is derived from.
Earlier this summer, 46-year-old Grafton resident David A. Kontos was charged with first degree reckless homicide after giving morphine pills to Benjamin Grinwald, 35, who was found dead because of an overdose. If convicted, Kontos faces up to 40 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines.
The even more dangerous method of using heroin or morphine is intravenously with a needle, which increases the chances of addiction, overdose and diseases like HIV, Galbraith said.
"When you’re shooting heroin in your arms, you have no idea what the quality of that drug is," Galbraith said. "It’s kind of like taking a revolver and playing Russian roulette. Sooner or later the needle that you’re sticking in your arm is going to kill you."
The Ozaukee County Sherriff’s Department and many local agencies are doing all they can to put a halt to this trend, and are asking for help from the community as well.
"If we want to keep the quality of life that we have in this county," Galbraith said, "it is extremely important to work to try and get it under control."