Heroin on the decline?

TRI-CITIES - Dope, Tar, the Big H - all different names for one drug that does the same thing. Heroin has the power to hook you immediately.

"It causes a false sense of well-being - who doesn't want that?" said First Step Community Counseling Director Penny Bell.

Bell works for a county-funded treatment agency. She thinks changes to the state's prescription drug program may push more people to heroin.

The goal was to reduce the abuse of prescription painkillers.
But Bell worries more pill addicts will turn to heroin because it's cheaper, and lasts longer.

"People are doing heroin because it works," added Bell.

So Bell was surprised to learn the Metro Drug Task Force turned up less heroin this year over last year.

They confiscated more than three quarters less of the drug than they did last year -- from January to September.

It's not that heroin is off the streets -- trafficked or used any less. The Metro Drug Task Force gets its information from confidential sources. Meaning, eyes can't be everywhere.

"I think it would be inaccurate to say we have less heroin. Because there's always and always has been - if you look at the history of it - a pretty constant level - use and demand of heroin," said Kennewick Police Sergeant Ken Lattin.

To get all sides of the story, I talked to the Benton-Franklin Crisis Response Center. It directs addicts to funding sources and treatment.

For these patients, eleven more people were admitted for heroin use in a 12 month plan over the previous 12 months. It came during a year when over 300 fewer patients were admitted overall.

Despite it being found less frequently -- experts don't expect a significant change.

"Heroin has always been with us - and always probably will be with us," said Sergeant Lattin.

Over thirteen percent of people admitted to treatment in the U-S in 2007 - were admitted for heroin use.