Local OD rates rise
Drug use pervasive in area
Wednesday, June 13, 2012 7:00 PM
MARINETTE - No matter how you slice it, there is a serious drug problem in the city of Marinette, Marinette County and the surrounding area. In fact, drug enforcement data from 2011 places Marinette County - along with Milwaukee and Dane Counties - as the three counties in the state where drug use is most pervasive per capita.
Officer Scott Ries of the Marinette Police Department knows that fact all too well. He experiences the horrors of it every night he clocks in for a shift.
At Wednesday's Public Safety and Code Enforcement Committee meeting, Ries provided the committee with a shocking presentation, and explained just how dire the drug abuse situation in the city and county has become in recent years.
While Ries' presentation touched on everything from prescription drug abuse to methamphetamines, the officer focused primarily on the two illegal drugs that pose the biggest threat to Marinette and the surrounding area - heroin and synthetic marijuana.
"Right now our synthetics and our heroin is what's killing our kids and killing our adults here in this community - it's just crazy," Ries said.
"In Green Bay there is a methadone clinic. It's the closest methadone clinic in the state, they can treat 3,000 patients.
"They say that there are 500 people from our community in their beds that are seeking treatment."
Ries went on to explain that if there are 500 people from our community seeking treatment, it's probably safe to say that three-quarters of our addicts are not seeking treatment.
"So let's go with 2,000 people in our community are addicted to narcotic analgesics and to opiates. The two communities (Marinette and Menominee) are 20,000 people, give or take, that puts us at 10 percent of our community addicted to narcotic analgesics - 10 percent," he emphasized.
The area's 40 percent increase in burglaries is in large part drug-related, he said.
According to Ries, the problem is further complicated by the difficulty law enforcement officers encounter in their attempts to search for heroin, as a tenth of a gram packet of heroin (which sells in this community for $50 and can purchased in Milwaukee or Chicago for $20) is small enough to be folded up in a gum wrapper.
"They shove it up their vagina, they eat it, things like that - transport it to here - poop it out and sell it on the street. There's money in it, that's why they do it. They're addicted, they need to make some money out of it, they need to provide for their habit, typically they use portions of it, they sell portions of it, and it moves fairly quick."
Along with the high volume of heroin coming into the community comes a high number of overdoses, Ries explained.
To save the lives of those addicts who overdose - as most eventually will - both the users of heroin as well as the paramedics carry a drug called Narcan, which reverses the effects of heroin, the officer said.
"Without Narcan, as a reversal drug, I would say that we'd probably have two deaths a day. We administer Narcan, on some nights, five to seven times at the ER to people who are overdosing on heroin - so without Narcan they would die."
And it's not uncommon to see five to seven overdoses on nights when shipments come in, Ries said.
"They kind of act like God (the paramedics) they bring somebody who's dead - on death's doorstep - and they give them a shot and they're back up, functioning. And the next day they're back using heroin again because of that addiction that keeps going."
Sadly, according to Ries, overdoses on synthetic cannabinoids such as Spice or K2 are nearly as prevalent as heroin overdoses.
"We see overdoses on synthetic marijuana just about on a nightly basis."
Users of synthetic marijuana are often found with pulse readings of 140-160 beats per minute (60-90 beats per minute is the normal heart rate range). So that (synthetic marijuana) increases your body temperature, and as your body temperature increases the brain will shut down, you convulse, and you die - plain and simple, Ries explained.
"Right now in our county we have four kids that are in a catatonic state. And for those who don't know what a catatonic state is, it's kind of like you're there but you're not there. You're staring at the wall, you're breathing, you're living - but somebody's wiping your butt, somebody's feeding you, somebody's taking care of you.
"What happens is they overdose on the synthetics, they lose the oxygen needed to the brain, they have brain damage, and that's the rest of their life - sitting in a nursing home at 18, 19, 20, 30, 40 years old - and that's what we're dealing with right now, if you're fortunate enough to live."
Some aren't that fortunate, however, as Marinette has already had three fatalities attributed to smoking synthetic marijuana, Ries said, adding that unlike heroin, there is no anti-drug that works for Spice overdoses.
And although all synthetic marijuana formulations are illegal in Wisconsin, they are currently available over-the-counter at smoke shops in Menominee.
"We have this right across the street - right across the river - and it's in our community, big-time," Ries said.
However, that may not be the case for much longer, as the State of Michigan and the City of Menominee are both considering passing legislation to outlaw the sale of synthetic marijuana.