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Kentucky Drug Threat Assessment
July 2002


Heroin poses a low threat to Kentucky because it is rarely available or abused in the state. Heroin availability is limited primarily to urban areas, and information regarding the heroin threat in other areas of the state is largely negligible. Most of the heroin available in Kentucky is produced in Mexico. South American heroin, which on average is higher purity than Mexican, is available in at least one area of the state. Local independent Caucasian dealers, the dominant heroin distributors in the state, transport most of the heroin into Kentucky from major cities such as Chicago, Cincinnati, Dayton, Detroit, and New York. Mexican criminal groups also distribute heroin in the state but to an even lesser extent.



Heroin is abused less frequently than other illicit drugs in Kentucky. Only 3 percent of all drug-related treatment admissions in Kentucky from FY1998 through FY2000 were for heroin abuse; however, there are indicators that the rate of heroin abuse increased during that period. Heroin-related treatment admissions increased from 458 in FY1998 to 542 in FY1999 and 561 in FY2000, according to the Kentucky Division of Substance Abuse. Louisville, Lexington, and Covington have the largest number of patients seeking treatment for heroin addiction, with Ashland, Bowling Green, Hazard (Breathitt and Perry Counties), and Paducah also having a significant number.

While law enforcement authorities throughout eastern Kentucky continue to report low incidences of heroin abuse in the area, a new customer base, primarily college students, may be emerging in the Lexington area. Higher purity heroin gives users the option of snorting or smoking rather than injecting the drug. This option enhances the appeal to younger users and individuals who previously were hesitant to use the drug.



Heroin is not readily available in Kentucky; however, local law enforcement officials reported an increase in the number of heroin-related investigations, arrests, and seizures in 1999. FDSS data indicate that federal law enforcement officials seized no heroin in FY1997, 4.7 kilograms in FY1998, and 4.6 kilograms in FY1999. There were no reported seizures in FY2000; however, preliminary reporting indicates that there were 10.8 kilograms seized in FY2001.

Heroin is less prevalent than other illicit drugs in Kentucky and is available primarily in urban areas of the state. Most of the heroin available in Kentucky is produced in Mexico. Mexican brown powdered and Mexican black tar heroin are reportedly available in Lexington and Ashland. South American heroin also is reportedly available in Ashland. The number of heroin investigations in Ashland increased dramatically since June 2001. Law enforcement authorities have also reported an increase in heroin availability in the Louisville area.

In 1999 STRIDE data indicated that heroin purity averaged 85 percent in Kentucky. Heroin prices in Kentucky remained stable from FY1995 through FY2000 then increased in FY2001. According to DEA, a gram of heroin sold for $100 to $300 in 2000, then increased to $300 to $400 in 2001.

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There are no indications of significant increases in crime or violence related directly to heroin distribution and abuse in Kentucky. Violence associated with heroin distribution is limited, according to local police department officials. Nonetheless, the highly addictive nature of heroin causes many users to commit criminal acts in order to obtain the money needed to purchase the drug. This often results in the abuser engaging in a wide variety of criminal activities including theft, burglary, and prostitution.



Opium is not cultivated nor is heroin produced in Kentucky. Heroin is produced primarily in four source regions: South America, Southeast Asia, Southwest Asia, and Mexico. Most of the heroin available in Kentucky is produced in Mexico.



Local independent Caucasian dealers in their twenties are the dominant transporters of heroin into and throughout the state. Most heroin available in the state is transported by local independent dealers from cities such as Chicago, Cincinnati, Dayton, Detroit, and New York--heroin distribution centers. It commonly is concealed inside private vehicles, usually in small quantities not exceeding several grams. The Lexington Police Department reports that heroin is transported into its area from New York by local independent dealers. The Covington Police Department reports that heroin is transported into its area from Cincinnati.



There is limited reporting regarding heroin distribution in Kentucky. The Covington, Ashland, Louisville, and Lexington Police Departments report that local independent Caucasian dealers are the primary retail distributors in their jurisdictions. Mexican criminal groups also distribute heroin at the retail level but to a lesser extent. Young Caucasian males purchase gram quantities of heroin at distribution centers in other states and return to Kentucky to distribute the drug. Heroin usually is sold in cities such as Bowling Green, Lexington, and Louisville, as well as cities in neighboring states.


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