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Feb 3, 2014 9:53 PM by Victoria Johnson

Heroin use on the rise

Police say heroin has become a trendy drug on the Central Coast over the last few years. Heroin is not a new issue, but officers say use of the drug has increased dramatically because it is cheap and easier to find on the street than expensive prescription drugs. Captain Christopher Staley of the San Luis Obispo Police Department told KSBY: "Prior to the last year or two, oxycontin was the drug of choice here in San Luis Obispo. The ability to use oxycontin in the manner it was used before has been removed. You can't break it up to smoke it or inject it any longer." Staley said that's the reason why heroin is on the rise. Undercover narcotics detective Nick Fontecchio said the pharmaceutical companies realized people were abusing oxycontin and changed the formula. Fontecchio told KSBY: "The users went from (oxycontin) to the easiest thing that would replace it which is heroin, which you can buy cheap on the streets." Heroin costs about $80 to $100 for a gram, which could last a user a couple of days depending on their frequency. Frank Warren of San Luis Obispo County Health Agency said 63% of recovering heroin users in their program are male and 91% of the patients are white. Warren said it's easier than ever to get heroin. He told KSBY: "It is mass produced and it is more local. You can find it in California now, where it used to have to be imported and distributed through more difficult means. The drug is easier to farm." Detective Fontecchio said heroin use has dramatically increased within the last five years. The extremely addictive drug pushes users to want to chase the feeling of their first high on heroin, but that's impossible to attain. Fontecchio said: "It is both psychologically and physically addictive. Out of all the drugs it is probably the worst because it's two fold - not only do you feel it in the brain chemistry but you feel it physically." The San Luis Obispo County Coroner reporter five deaths from heroin in 2012. From January through October of 2013, there were eight heroin deaths in San Luis Obispo County. However, officials KSBY spoke with said that number is probably higher because the drug dissipates in the bloodstream within a few hours after death, making it difficult to impossible to detect it. Kelly Hoover of the Santa Barbara Sheriff's Office said 40 people have died of drug and alcohol related incidents in Santa Barbara County between January and November of 2013. Hoover said within a toxicology report, it is common to find multiple drugs and the drug that may have caused death is oftentimes hard to determine.

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