They've made their mark in the fight against meth and OxyContin, but now Operation UNITE officers say Heroin is the new battleground in the mountains.
This year's National Drug Threat Assessment by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration shows the heroin that's readily available in big cities, is hooking more people in rural areas.
In eastern Kentucky, UNITE officials say it's the latest trend.
“In recent months we've bought heroin for the first time since UNITE's been in operation. Basically, all three of the task forces have bought small amounts of heroin,” Dan Smoot said.
Two dozen people are suspects in a heroin ring that police say stretches from West Virginia and Ohio to Mexico and is believed to be connected to 10 deaths. UNITE officers say they've made buys from young adults and older users.
“So I think it's just a matter of time until heroin is a drug of choice in the region,” Smoot said.
Smoot says the number of overdoses usually shoots up anytime drug users start 'shooting up' a new drug of choice, and that's put officers and treatment teams on high alert.
“If their bodies aren't accustomed to that particular drug, then they're not going to know their cutoff point,” Mike Williams, Westcare Kentucky Clinical Director said.
UNITE officers say users don't always know what they're getting, because like cocaine, heroin is usually shipped from other countries and could be laced with something else.
Federal officials say a drop in heroin eradication in Mexico means much more heroin could be headed our way.
UNITE officers say the price of heroin in the mountains is higher than usual because it's relatively new to the region, but they expect the price to drop if the supply increases.