Nearly a year ago, police in southern Illinois and northwestern Kentucky were beginning to see heroin cross the river into western Kentucky. They feared the drug, which hasn't had a commanding presence in the region, would become more commonplace if the movement continued. Those fears, it seems, have been realized.
Drug units in more southern counties have begun to see more and more heroin on the streets and the trend seems to be growing. Potent and highly addictive strains of heroin have caused overdose deaths in the region, and have become less surprising to see in drug busts or undercover activity.
"We were told it was coming," Marshall County Sheriff Kevin Byars said. "It was only a matter of time. And it has started to spread this way quite a bit."
Byars said the county is currently investigating two deaths believed to be associated with heroin usage. His situation is not unlike the one the Paducah police drug unit faced when heroin began to creep in from Illinois. The drug makes its way from larger cities, sometimes as far away as Chicago but also Cincinnati and Memphis, and led to several overdose deaths in Paducah last year.
"Before we were seeing heroin pop up in arrests or busts maybe once or twice a year," Detective Nathan Young of the Paducah Police Department's Drug Unit said. "Now it's more like once or twice a month. Heroin is one of the dirtiest drugs out there because people have to inject it and they share needles most of the time. It's also highly addictive."
Graves County Sheriff Dewayne Redmon said his department has worked undercover as well, and heroin buys seem more common. Like Marshall and McCracken counties, Redmon said his drug units are trying to climb the drug ladder from users to dealers to suppliers to cut off the area's supply.
"We want to stop it at its source," Redmon said. "This is almost like when (methamphetamine) made its way into the region. It was out of control, and heroin is more dangerous. It's one of the most dangerous drugs out there. It's troubling to see it here."
Contact Corianne Egan, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8652 or follow @CoriEgan on Twitter.