COVINGTON, Ky. — Rob Sanders was blunt in explaining one of the differences between the heroin epidemic of the previous decade and the recent infusion of meth.
"When it was heroin, heroin addicts were killing themselves. Meth addicts, on the other hand, they're going to kill other people," the Kenton County Commonwealth’s Attorney told WCPO 9 News.
Sanders said he sees more DWI’s and crime with meth than with heroin. Sanders said the meth explosion in Northern Kentucky is putting drivers and police in danger, not to mention changing how he prosecutes users and dealers.
WCPO 9 News told you Monday about the surge in meth use in the Tri-State. With Mexican cartels flooding the area with meth that's 97% pure, Sanders sees so many people caught with the drug that he recently changed how he charges users and dealers being pushed away from opiates.
"If you want to buy a kilo or some other large quantity of heroin, you also have to buy a kilo of methamphetamine,” Sanders said. “They just wouldn't sell them the heroin unless they agreed to buy the meth as well."
Some buyers in search of opiates claim they get free trials of meth. Others buy meth because it's cheap.
"All those people that were addicted to heroin, addicted to other opiates, they'll use anything they can to avoid detox, and if meth is all they can get their hands on, they'll use meth," Sanders said. "And these days I’d say the vast majority of heroin users have switched over to meth because they're hooked on that now. And it's got to the point where they couldn't find their heroin, but they can find their meths."
Either way, the results flow through Kenton County Court.
People caught with a gram – about the size of a pencil eraser - used to get charged as dealers. Six months ago, that changed when Sanders noticed meth had overtaken heroin as the No. 1 drug abused in his county.
“People have eight, 10, 12 grams of meth and they might just be a user, so we're having to reevaluate just how we charge cases," Sanders said.
As a result, prosecutors redefined two felonies. Those in court today caught with less than 10 grams face felony possession charges.
Prosecutors say dealers usually have more than that. Even then, authorities often have to find other evidence of drug sales with things like scales before they charge them with dealing.