Photo by Andrew Richards
Michael Shah, an intelligence analyst with the United States Drug Enforcement Administration speaks at Madison County’s first heroin task force story.
EDWARDSVILLE – Heroin is the “new designer drug,” according to a federal official.
Michael Shah, an intelligence analyst with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in the St. Louis area, spoke to a crowd and panel of the county’s newly formed task force Friday, March 7, in the county administration building. The task force formed in late February as a result of the county’s rising heroin epidemic.
Members of the task force at the meeting included State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons, Sheriff Robert Hertz and Coroner Steve Nonn.
Shah said the U.S. had 370,000 heroin users in 2007; in 2012, the number grew to 670,000.
The federal official said when DEA talked to heroin users, trends have shown that most did not start when they were in high school, but in sixth or seventh grade.
“We really need to start talking to them when they are in fourth or fifth grade,” he said.
He said kids are going into St. Louis to get the drug and “it’s coming to them.”
Shah said the drug flows to Illinois because of the Sinaloa Cartel - the Mexican narcotics cartel that clears $3 billion in annual revenue on illegal drug trafficking throughout the United States.
“You think they are going to stop because they’re worried about what’s happening in Madison County, Illinois?” Shah asked.
He said the purpose of the task force is “gathering information to see what can be done on the issue over the next two to three years.”
Nonn also spoke to the panel.
“These kids don’t know what they are taking,” he said. The heroin issue “is not going away.”
Nonn encouraged the crowd and panel to take part in the Lock Your Meds program, which is designed to help families get rid of unnecessary painkiller prescriptions from their households. Abuse of prescription drugs often leads to heroin addiction.
He said the task force meeting is the first step for the county in addressing the heroin issue.
“This starts the talking today,” Nonn said. “We will formulate a plan and we will carry out the plan today.”
The next task force meeting will be in two to three weeks, Gibbons said.