Law enforcement agents have tracked a decrease in oxycontin and an increase in black tar heroin during the last four to six months, Norman police said.
Norman Police Capt. J.D. Younger said police cannot determine how much of the drug flow has been interrupted and redirected.
“It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact impact you’ve had,” he said. “The significant impact is based on the decreased availability and increase in price.”
Investigators theorize why numbers have dropped: “Operation Pill Box.”
In December, state and federal law enforcement, broke up an alleged oxycontin ring in the Norman area. The investigation was dubbed “Operation Pill Box.”
Cleveland County Undersheriff Rhett Burnett suspects that bust slowed illegal distribution of the drug.
“That was great police work,” Burnett said. “It cut down on the flow.”
Although heroin seems to be on the rise in Norman, Moore police have not seen much, said Capt. Jeremy Lewis, Moore police spokesman.
Younger said most of the heroin supply is coming from Mexico. Police suspect someone is acquiring heroin and bringing it into the Norman area.
Suppliers frequently use Interstate 35 and Interstate 40 to transport drugs, Younger said. I-35 runs through Cleveland County and intersects with I-40 in Oklahoma City.
The Medical Examiner’s Office tracks overdose deaths across the state and has data through 2009. Data for 2010 is not complete.
In 2008, 32 people in Cleveland County died from drug overdoses. Oxycodone killed five people. One person died from a heroin overdose.
Oxycodone also is found in combination with other ingredients in prescription pain killers. In its pure form it is oxycontin.
In 2009, drug overdose deaths decreased to 28, according to state statistics. One person died from oxycodone. Statistics on heroin related deaths were not available.
So far in 2010, there have been four heroin related overdoses reported in Norman. None have resulted in death, according to state officials.
Burnett said methamphetamine and cocaine are the most common drugs that county investigators come across. However, heroin is making a come back, he said.
Heroin has a massive addictive affect, Burnett said.
“It puts you out,” he said.
Dr. David Fish, who joined the emergency department at Norman Regional Hospital in July 2009, said in the past nine months, he’s treated at least two heroin overdoses. Both patients lived.
Heroin relaxes the body, Fish said. The narcotic slows down the respiratory system and induces a seemingly euphoric mental state.
Overdose patients brought into the emergency department typically are not breathing, Fish said. The person also likely is in a coma.
“If you take too much you will stop breathing and die,” he said.
Fish said someone can become addicted to heroin in a single dose.
“People can be psychologically addicted pretty quickly and physiological over time,” he said.
He said heroin originally was designed to be a pain reliever. Another opiate, oxycontin also is known to ease physical pain.
Fish said as an emergency room physician, he treats short-term pain. Oxycodone, in conjunction with other ingredients, is marketed as Percocet. Instead of oxycontin or an oxycodone compound, Fish said he normally prescribes a short dose of Vicodin or Lortab for pain relief.
“It’s not something we give out regularly,” he said of oxycontin.
Fish said compared with heroin overdoses, he’s treated more patients who suffer from prescription drug overdoses.
“It’s almost a daily thing,” he said.