As the street value of prescription pills go up, so does the popularity of heroin.
In the past year, the number of investigations and arrests made involving heroin in the state of Delaware have spiked.
"Heroin is a bad thing," said Sgt. Paul G. Shavack, a spokesman for the Delaware State Police Department. "It grips you and you'll do anything to get that next hit."
Changes in the availability of opiates, such as Percocets, Oxycodone and Vicodin, and the rising street prices of these pills have turned addicts towards heroin.
In 2011, there were 578 investigations statewide.
As of Sept. 27 of this year, there have been 734, Shavack said.
The recent changes made in Medicaid limit the amount of schedule III pills that can be prescribed each month to patients.
Before this year, patients could get an unlimited number of pills, some of which users diverted for illegal use, Shavack said.
"[Heroin] is one of the most addictive drugs out there," said Middletown Police Chief Henry Tobin.
Like the rest of the state, Middletown has seen an increase in heroin arrests.
Along with these arrests, police are also seeing an increase in property crimes.
Many of the users who steal from homes or vehicles are opportunist criminals looking for something to sell on the street for cash to buy drugs, Shavack said.
Tobin said that the man who was involved a recent attempted robbery at the Valero on Main Street in Middletown was using the highly addictive opiate.
On Sept. 23, police said that David Donnell, a 42-year-old man from Clayton, attempted to rob the East Main Street Shore Stop, implying to the clerk he had a gun.
Donnell told the clerk he wanted $100, but when the clerk denied his request, he fled on foot, Tobin said.
Other than it's low price and accessibility, its high addiction possibilities have also made it a more popular product on the streets than prescription medication, police said.
In Wilmington, police said that baggies of heroin are being sold for as low as $5.
The average price for a baggie of heroin, which contains .025 grams of the drug, generally sells for between $5 and $10. A "bundle," of heroin, which contains 13 bags, generally is sold for $45, Shavack said. The street value of prescription pills is assessed at about $1 per milligram.
"The price is a pretty big factor," he said.
Thirty-milligram narcotic pills will only last an addict for so long, but 13 bags of heroin will let them stay high for a longer period of time.
Heroin has a low recovery rate and a high chance of relapse.
Page 2 of 2 - Shavack said that the drug is also becoming more popular with young adults between the ages of 18 and 25.
"It has pretty much replaced prescription drugs due to the changes in availability and price," he said.
Over the summer, members of the Middletown Police Department's seasonal patrol unit encountered a young woman from town on two separate occasions with more than 50 empty baggies, said Lt. Michael Kelly. The woman, who police said is in her early 20's, would keep the bags if she could not find the drug.
"She would tell the officers that she would lick the bags to try to get a fix," Kelly said.
Since she was not in possession of the substance, the woman was not arrested, he said, but the bags were taken by police to be disposed of.
In the past, police said that they have had mostly crack-cocaine, and marijuana arrests in town, but heroin has taken the place of crack on this list.
Middletown Police have also seen a decrease in prescription pill arrests since last summer.
Through investigations, State Police are learning that most of the heroin circulated in Delaware comes from Philadelphia, Pa. or Baltimore, Md.
It comes in through dealers in Wilmington and then is filtered throughout the rest of the state, Shavack said.
Dealers and buyers need quick and easy access to main roads to get in and get out, Shavack said.
Delaware as a state is ideal for that with I-95 running through New Castle County.
Middletown has several main roads that lead in and out that can be utilized, police officers said at a Public Safety Committee meeting Sept. 26. These roads include Del. Route 1 and Del. Route 72. The town's location between Dover and Wilmington also make it an ideal stop.
Tobin and Kelly said that most of the possession arrests they make are made during traffic stops and that the suspects are generally from out of town.
On Aug. 23, New Castle County Police arrested an 18-year-old Middletown man for selling the drug out of his Middletown Village home.
Bryce Holton, Jr., was arrested that morning in his home in the 200 block of Vincent Circle with more than 480 bags of heroin packaged for sale, five different types of ammunition and more than $2,000 of suspected drug money.
The Safe Streets Task Force executed a search warrant on Holton, Jr's residence after receiving information that the teen was possibly selling heroin from his home.
New Castle County Police said that the 480 bags amounted to 12.025 grams of the drug.