Hard drugs like meth and heroin are increasingly finding their way to small communities throughout Alaska, according the Alaska State Troopers' 2013 annual drug report.
The report notes that “alcohol and marijuana continue to be the overwhelming drugs of choice for rural Alaska.” At the same time, Troopers say they’ve started to see meth, heroin, and prescription pain killers appear more commonly in smaller and more rural areas.
Heroin use in the state “continues to grow,” the report notes: statewide more than 55 pounds were seized in 2013, compared to just under five pounds seized in 2012.
There has been an increase in heroin throughout the state, the report notes, including “undercover buys and interdictions” in smaller communities. The state’s medical examiner “continues to see a significant number of deaths where heroin and other opiates are listed as the cause.”
While the heroin statistics are alarming, they are not surprising to the Anchorage Police Department. It reported a 94 percent increase in heroin seizures from 2012 to 2013. The majority of APD's undercover drug buys is for heroin, according to Officer Mark Laporte with APD's Special Assignment Unit. He adds that since heroin is highly addictive, its users often resort to extreme measures to afford their fix. That has led to an increase in certain crimes.
"It's huge. It's driving up the other statistics of crime in burglary, in robbery and in theft. How many addicts we have out there, how many people are using heroin, now they have to have money to use it," said Laporte.
Troopers say the trend throughout the Pacific region has seen huge jumps in the availability of methamphetamine, even as the amount of meth seized in Alaska dropped from more than 35 pounds in 2012 to just shy of 12 pounds in 2013. State-adopted regulations for pseudoephedrine have seen the number of meth labs in the state drop, from a high of 11 in 2010 to just five in 2013. Despite the decline, new “one pot” methods for cooking meth are becoming increasingly popular, Troopers noted.
Abusing and selling of prescription medications is another are on the rise, Troopers said. Abuse of pain relievers like hydrocodone and oxycodone are part of the fastest growing drug abuse problem in the nation. In Alaska, the trend is no different: seizerues of the two common painkillers both topped more than 1,300 dosage units in 2013, up from just hundreds of units seized the year prior.
Use of so-called “synthetic drugs” like bath salts (containing the chemical MDPV) and synthetic cannabinoids have also “trended upward,” Troopers say, due in part to their relative availability at retail shops.
Channel 2's Abby Hancock contributed to this report.