Roberts Law Group PLLC

North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorneys

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Heroin use up in North Carolina, drug crimes penalties change

New statistics show that a troubling rise in heroin use is occurring throughout North Carolina, causing some alarm among law enforcement officers and public health officials alike. Heroin had been only a minor concern for drug crimes enforcement agencies in recent years. A recent spike in heroin deaths in 2012, however, has led to increased attention to the distribution of the narcotic.

Authorities in Durham, for example, reportedly seized roughly four pounds of heroin in 2013; that is five times the 2010 haul. Raleigh saw an even more severe upsurge, with seizures of less than a pound in 2010 and nearly 24 pounds taken in 2013. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that an epidemic of opioid prescription deaths is also occurring; many of those medications contain similar chemicals as those found in heroin. Experts say that heroin is far cheaper -- $5 to $20 per bag -- than the $40 per pill cost for the prescription medication.

News reports show that a 2013 law may be helping prevent overdose deaths by decriminalizing efforts to seek medical help for drug users. People who are trying to procure medical assistance for another person are immune from prosecution if they are holding less than a gram of heroin. That law also allows users and their companions to revive overdose victims with an antidote, Naloxone. One woman said that she has heard of seven people being revived from overdoses since the law was passed.

New legislation in the state is also designed to eliminate opiate-based prescription abuse. A statewide reporting initiative has been implemented, which will ostensibly improve officers' ability to identify those who are abusing prescription medications. Medical providers have also been given additional resources that should help them identify patients who are "doctor shopping" for certain prescription drugs.

Criminal defendants may not face such serious drug charges for seeking help for a friend who is in trouble. That is very good news for users who were previously in danger of death because of a fear of law enforcement or medical professionals. North Carolina criminal defendants facing drug charges because of stricter guidelines may benefit from the help of a criminal defense attorney.

Source: The News and Observer, "Heroin use, and deaths, on the rise in North Carolina" Thomasi McDonald, Apr. 05, 2014

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