LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) - Heroin is one of the most addictive drugs.
It's processed from morphine and it comes from the seedpod of the Opium Asian Poppy Plant. According to the Department of External Affairs, approximately 1.2% of the population reported heroin use at least once in their lifetime. That may not sound like a big number but it is when you learn that most heroin users get hooked for a lifetime.
Local law enforcement says you might think finding heroin in La Crosse would be hard to do but that couldn't be farther from the truth. Sergeant Investigator Dan Kloss says "There are a lot of people addicted to this powerful opiate. It's taken over a large segment of our drug population."
To learn more about the problem police let WXOW ride along. They use an informant who calls the drug dealer to make the buy. Kloss says, "You can make a lot of money with heroin in short amount of time."
Deals aren't done in the shadows. Instead they're done in plain sight. . "They use a lot of stores and parking lots," says Kloss. "They do it right in the open where it's common. They do it in a place where there's a lot of vehicle traffic, foot traffic so they can blend right in. You really don't see it unless you're looking for it."
Kloss says buying drugs is sometimes quicker than going through the drive through.
And just like that-the buy is made.
Police follow the driver out of town. When they tell him to pull over, he doesn't. "What's scary for us is when you're doing a traffic stop and they don't stop right away. What's going through our minds is what's this person doing. They're either stuffin' or grabbing a weapon and you have no idea what's going through their mind at that point."
After a brief chase, the dealer finally pulls over on the interstate with traffic whizzing by. And Kloss confirms it's their guy. "The money we used during the buy is in the guy's pocket so obviously that's our guy." Police take the dealer into custody. They find money, prescription drugs and bags of heroin.
Ronda Lettner counsels addicts and says when she started working in the field in the 80's, people who were addicted to heroin or opiates were older. "They were 40-50 years old. This is really scary --- to have 18 and 20 year olds - feeling and addicted in such a chronic way."
Ronda works in the Behavioral Health Department at Gundersen Lutheran in Onalaska and says heroin makes even the most together person do terrible things. "I know lots of people who love their children dearly and then do something that puts their children at risk."
Heroin addicts can be hooked for a lifetime. "Going through withdrawal is so physically painful. Their nerves are used to being dipped in anesthetic and then you take that away and it's so painful. It's like if you were to ever have the flu and fever times 100."
Police say heroin is in 47 of 72 counties in Wisconsin. It's a big problem with no easy solution but they believe that raising awareness is the only way to kick this deadly addiction.
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