NEWS10 Special Report: Heroin Highway

ALBANY, N.Y. – Deaths from heroin overdoses in New York State have doubled from 2008 to 2012, and the drug has made its way into the Capital Region on what authorities have called a “Heroin Highway.”

“Most of it is coming out of New York, and they are using that Route 7 corridor,” Vermont State Trooper Lieutenant John Merrigan said.

Heroin is transported in and out of New York on Route 7. Farmer Dan Tilley raises certified organic beef on his Tilldale farm that sits on both sides of Route 7.

“I can’t believe it,” he said. “We stand here waiting to get across all the time.”

Heroin is hidden in cars and sold in broad daylight. Police said heroin has made its way into every community throughout the Northeast.

“We’ve never seen it in Vermont like it is,” Merrigan said. “Today, is the most it’s ever been.”

Merrigan leads the fight against heroin for the state of Vermont.

“You can buy it for as cheap as $2 or $3 a bag in the city, and then sell it for as much as $15 or $20, or $25 or $30 depending on where you go,” he explained. “That’s a good profit margin.”

That profit margin is being driven by sky rocketing demand.

“Heroin highways – that’s what we’ve got in Vermont,” Merrigan continued.

Major Wayne Olson is the head of the Community Narcotics Enforcement Team for the New York State Police.

“The highways are transportation thoroughfares for narcotics,” he said.

Troopers are scrambling to keep up.

“Realistically, everybody out there has to know that this is not something that law enforcement can deal with by itself,” he said.

At the New York State forensics lab, scientists handle thousands of drugs a day. The drugs coming in are documented and stored in a secure vault. They are then tested in the lab.

In 2012, of all the drugs sent in that tested positive for a controlled substance, heroin accounted for 13 percent. Heroin accounted for 29 percent of all drugs tested in the first quarter of 2014. That’s more than doubled in two years.

Merrigan said the epidemic is just as troubling in Vermont as thousands of bags of heroin are trafficked in the state every day.

“Absolutely, no question,” he said. “Bet my paycheck.”

Olson said heroin has become more of a middle class issue. Merrigan agreed stating heroin use has hit an all-time high.

“This is the worst time period we’ve ever had,” Merrigan said. “And you won’t find anybody that works in this business that will disagree with that.”

With no way out, Tilley is caught living in the middle of a dangerous heroin trade.

“It’s a part of society here,” he said. “So it would be nice if we could stop it.”

But that’s a reality troopers don’t have an answer for.

“We can’t arrest our way out of the demand for it,” Merrigan said.

The face of heroin is changing, but there are several options to receive help throughout the Region.

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