The Opioid and Heroin Epidemic in Springfield, Missouri
Springfield is the third-largest city in Missouri and the county seat of Greene County. Springfield has a population of about 160,000 people, many of whom are living with the harsh realities of addiction to prescription opioids and other drugs. From 2001 to 2016, the rate of deaths caused by drugs in Missouri rose by 243%, and most people in Missouri who lose their lives to drugs suffer a fatal overdose on opioids. Opioid addiction usually begins with addiction to prescription painkillers and often escalates into addiction to heroin. In 2015, doctors and pharmacists in Missouri issued 5.2 million painkiller prescriptions while the ratio of opioids prescribed per capita in Greene County was 70% more than the national average. Consequently, an overdose on at least one opioid, whether legally prescribed or illicitly manufactured, killed 672 Missourians in 2015, 914 in 2016, and at least 900 in 2017. In Springfield and Greene County, 205 people died from an opioid overdose over the course of 2013 to 2017.
A greater portion of fatal overdoses in Missouri involve non-heroin opioids such as fentanyl than involve heroin. However, heroin is still a major problem for Springfield. In recent years, police in Springfield have been arresting heroin traffickers and confiscating increasingly large supplies of heroin throughout the city. In 2016, Springfield police confiscated more than 4,000 grams of heroin, and in 2018, federal prosecutors indicted over nine Springfield residents for conspiring to distribute heroin. The trafficking of heroin into Springfield from larger cities in Missouri and from other states has increased because the city is located along Interstate 44.
Meth Production and Trafficking in Springfield
Methamphetamine is another illegal and dangerous drug which is wreaking havoc in Springfield. Missouri was once widely considered to be the center of meth production in the United States. In the past few years, the prevalence of meth labs in Missouri has decreased. While police closed 96 meth labs in Greene County in 2012, the police discovered only two meth labs in Greene County in 2017. However, meth trafficking into Greene County has risen even as meth production has declined. Traffickers are importing meth from other states and from Mexico into Springfield and Greene County. For example, Springfield police arrested a dozen people in 2018 who were trafficking meth from Arizona, Texas and California.
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The Fight against Substance Abuse in Springfield
The City of Springfield has taken several important steps to combat the opioid crisis and drug addiction. While Springfield police continue to arrest drug traffickers, police and paramedics in Springfield are carrying the medication naloxone (also known as Narcan) to help the victims of the drug abuse. Narcan reverses the effects of an opioid overdose and can save lives. Paramedics in Springfield use Narcan approximately 40 times in an average month. Springfield and Greene County are joining lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and they are creating task forces to study the problem of substance abuse in their communities and recommend solutions. Community organizations and law enforcement in Springfield have also organized medication take-back days when residents can responsibly and anonymously discard addictive drugs. There is also a drug treatment court in Greene County which has helped many residents overcome addiction and begin to live on the right side of the law.
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Addiction is difficult to conquer once it has begun, but recovery is possible. There are recovery centers and support groups available to anyone in Springfield who wants to take the first step to living life without drugs. Contact a dedicated treatment provider today if you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse.