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Epidemic Addiction changing how police battle drug abuse

Posted at 6:04 PM, Feb 05, 2020

CINCINNATI — As meth use in the Greater Cincinnati region continues to rise, the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition is considering a name change to address the new, ever-changing threat.

"We're getting ready to change our name," said coalition member and Newtown Police Chief Tom Synan. "We're changing it to addiction response coalition, because what we found is even when you specialize in heroin, it's not just heroin. You're dealing with every drug there is."

The idea is in response to their concern over what may be a bigger epidemic, with cartels deciding what is in demand.

Synan is on the Hamilton County Heroin Coalition, and he said one threat that concerns him and other coalition members is something called poly-use. Poly-use is a term used to describe a person's use of multiple drugs, like meth, coke, heroin and sometimes mixes or substitutes.

Synan said people are changing from opiates to meth for a variety of reasons: it's cheap, strong, and may not kill in the form of an overdose right away. But mostly, he said, it's available.

Kenton County Commonwealth Attorney Rob Sanders said the availability is something that concerns him in the Northern Kentucky region as well. 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."

Synan said addiction is driving people to abuse any and every street drug out there, but he insists demand hardly shapes the supply.

"For me, number one, this dispels the myth that demands dictate supply," said Synan. "Well, I'll give it from a consumer side. I'm on my tenth version of iPhone. I never asked for the first."

This is the reason Synan said it's important for the heroin coalition to change its name. The organization was never only about heroin; they always focused on addiction-related issues, regardless of the substance, and the need to change tact has become apparent as other drugs become more prevalent on the streets of Greater Cincinnati.

"If I'm a trafficker, the more product I have, that means the more product I have on the street," he said. "So if, for some reason, my supply of methamphetamine goes down but my fentanyl goes up, my product is still on the street, my consumer still has my product, and vice versa."

Law enforcement officials are continuing to attack suppliers of meth, fentanyl and opoids. Synan said to help the issue, his coalition is turning to community partners for help attacking the addictions that fuel the need.