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September 21, 2023

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County considers rising heroin use

Every community in Wood County shares a similar problem: heroin.

In Bowling Green, it’s only getting worse.

“It’s an evil drug,” said Maj. Tony Hetrick, deputy chief of the Bowling Green Police Division.

In 2013, Bowling Green police arrested 12 people for heroin trafficking and possession, and the division only expects the number to rise this year.

“I don’t think we’ve peaked yet in use,” Hetrick said. “I think it’ll get worse because I think we’re just scratching the surface right now.”

The police division is shifting its focus to heroin because of the fatalities that have come from it. There has been one fatality a year in the city since 2011, and Hetrick said it will only get worse.

In Ohio, a person dies from heroin every six hours— more than the rate of people killed by car accidents, said Lorrie Lewandowski, associate director of the Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board.

Heroin use didn’t really start taking off until 2012 or 2013, when the price of other narcotics, such as prescription pain pills, went up to between $40 and $60 a pill and the price of a gram of heroin went down to between $10 and $20 on the street, Hetrick said.

Not only did the price of pills go up, it became harder for people to obtain them because law enforcement cracked down. Heroin gives the same high as pain pills and was less expensive and costs less to obtain.

Heroin addiction isn’t picky when it comes to the age or socioeconomic background of addicts— it can strike anyone.

“[There are] no socioeconomic boundaries with it,” said Det. Chris Klewer with the Wood County Sheriff’s Office. “[It can affect] every walk of life.”

Angela, 25, began using heroin four years ago. Right now, she’s a resident at Devlac Hall, Behavioral Connection’s residential program in Bowling Green. She will only be referred to by her first name due to confidentiality.

She got addicted to heroin through using a low dose narcotic pain pill. Using the pill “motivated” her, making her want to do everyday things she had no desire to do before.

After a while, she stopped getting a high from it and started using stronger and stronger pills. When she wasn’t getting a high from even the strongest pain pill, a friend introduced her to a heroin dealer.

And then she was hooked.

“I turned to heroin about four years ago and it took me down a bad road ever since,” Angela said.

Once the drug use started, Angela said she began stealing, manipulating people and lying.

Her mom caught on and “she just couldn’t trust me,” Angela said.

This type of behavior is common with people who are addicted to heroin, Klewer said.

“A lot of heroin use is related to property crimes,” Klewer said.

Burglaries and robberies are common with drug users because if users don’t have the money, dealers may take gift cards, large electronics or other items. Users could also pawn items to get money to pay for drugs, which is sometimes how the sheriff’s office catches them.

“It’s such an addictive drug that people will do anything for it,” Klewer said. “[Users] wake up thinking about it and go to bed thinking about it.”

Hetrick said until legislators step in and raise the charges for traffickers, the high rate of use may not change.

Until then, the division is planning to step up enforcement starting in May because the officers know there are heroin users out there they’re not catching.

As of now, there are only officers in patrol cars who answer 911 calls and do traffic stops. Beginning in May, the division will have two uniformed officers on the road— not answering calls, but specially looking for people doing drugs, dealing drugs or committing drug-related crimes.

“It’s really hard to get possession charges on people because they use it so fast,” Hetrick said.

People can get high off a small amount of heroin and stay high for a long time, he said. Users are going somewhere to get the drug, such as Toledo, and using it on the way back.

When the police pull someone over for a traffic stop or suspicion of drug use, if they spot a needle, the person can be charged with a misdemeanor for having a “drug abuse instrument,” Hetrick said.

If they are caught with heroin, possession is a felony.

“It’s easy to conceal, it’s hard to find,” Hetrick said.

For information about treatment and prevention, visit

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