District Court Judge Linda Davis of Macomb County, Michigan believes that until we are able to change our ways insofar as how we prescribe opiates in this country, then we're going to see the number of fatal overdoses involving heroin double annually. She also believes that our overall usage of pills is going to continue to grow over the next five years.
Judge Davis has a point, considering that in both 2015 and 2016, healthcare providers in Michigan wrote 11 million prescriptions for opioid drugs alone each year. Judge Davis runs her county's drug court and also heads up the community organization Families Against Narcotics, which is an establishment set up to help folks battle their addictions.
Of over 50 deaths that were reported in Jackson County last year, all but five of them involved opioids on some level. Judge Davis echoes a statement that many have made, in some form or another, during the course of the opioid crisis, and that is the fact that as doctors restrict their practices of prescribing opioids in response to and as a way to fight the epidemic, then those who are already addicted to drugs via their prescriptions will turn to black market alternatives, like heroin, to satisfy their habits.
Last week, Roseville Police Chief James Berlin discussed Operation Smack Down, a drug sweep effort organized by Macomb County law enforcement – the fourth of its kind organized by the county. Says Berlin: "We're trying to do everything we can to try and control what's taking place inside our communities." This latest sweep took place over the course of three days and involved 22 agencies and over 100 officers.
The sweep targeted mainly users and dealers of heroin and opioids residing within Wayne and Macomb counties. The intention for including users in the sweep was not so much to punish them but to intervene so as to be able to offer them treatment and counseling. Every suspected user that was arrested on possession charges was offered treatment counseling, according to Berlin. "Our hope is that at least some of these folks will take advantage to get clean," he said.
Berlin stated that many of the dealers who were arrested were involved in what are known as "dial-a-dope" operations. Dial-a-dope operations are those in which a call is made to a "drug house" for a fix, and then a "runner" meets up with a buyer on the street corner in order to complete the transaction.
Berlin said that during Operation Smack Down, police made nearly 200 arrests, which broke down into 125 felonies, over 60 misdemeanors, and nearly 20 ordinance violations. There were five firearms and over 50 vehicles seized during the sweep as well.
As of the announcement, police had not yet calculated the number of drugs in total that had been confiscated and taken off the streets, however Berlin described the number of black market pills that were seized as an "ungodly" amount. Many of the pills were addictive painkillers, and they number into the several thousands. Said Berlin: "This operation was to disrupt the heroin flow as much as possible, the suppliers, the transports, et cetera."