Heroin and Other Drugs on the Rise in Central Ohio, Report Says

Ohio is one of several states that has a problem with substance abuse, and according to a recently released report, some commonly used illegal drugs are becoming more readily available in Central Ohio.

A February report from the Ohio Substance Abuse Monitoring Network released earlier this month says crack cocaine, black-tar heroin and opioid painkillers are more prevalent on the streets. The use of "bath salts" and synthetic marijuana, however, has decreased because of new state laws, the report says.

The drug-monitoring network, which is part of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, issues reports every six months covering drug-use trends in eight regions of the Buckeye State, according to the Columbus Dispatch. The Columbus region includes eight counties from Crawford south to Pickaway.

The reports are based on interviews with both "active and recovering drug users," treatment professionals and law enforcement agencies, according to the Dispatch. Statistics from the local coroner's offices, crime-lab data and newspaper reports also are used to compile the information.

The availability of powder cocaine has declined because of users shifting to pain pills and heroin, according to the report, which covered from January to June of last year. Prescription opioids such as Oxycontin and Vicodin still are widely available.

Black-tar heroin is the most easily accessible form of the drug in central Ohio, according to the report. In some instances, the substance can sell for $10 for a single use. Ironically, Suboxone, a medication prescribed to help heroin addicts overcome the addiction, now has become a street drug and also is on the rise.

These controlled substances could lead to serious criminal charges, including possession of a controlled substance, possession with the intent to sell and drug trafficking. Most often, the severity of the charge is determined by where the offense occurred, the schedule of the drug involved in the alleged offense and the amount of the drug in question.

Ohio Revised Code Section 3719.41 classifies controlled substances into schedules, ranging from Schedule I to Schedule V. The schedules range from very addicting with more severe penalties in Schedule I to the least addictive with less severe penalties for offenses in Schedule V.

For example, heroin is considered a Schedule I drug. Possession of less than one gram of heroin is charged as a fifth-degree felony, punishable by six to 12 months in prison. However, as the amount of the drug increases so do the penalties.

Possible penalties for possession of heroin charges in Ohio could be:

  • One to five grams -- Fourth-degree felony
  • Five to 10 grams -- Third-degree felony
  • 10 to 50 grams -- Second-degree felony
  • 50 to 250 grams -- First-degree felony
  • More than 250 grams -- First-degree felony with mandatory minimum prison term

If a person is charged with possession of a substance that is a Schedule III, IV or V drug, the alleged offender could face a misdemeanor of the first degree or a felony of the fifth, fourth, second or first degree. Again, there are several factors that affect the charges.

Additionally, the more of a controlled substance a person has in his or her possession, the more likely he or she will be charged with drug trafficking or possession with the intent to sell. These often have more severe penalties than possession charges. Penalties for possession with intent to sell heroin can be increased if the substance was sold within 1,000 feet of a school or to a minor.

Although the penalties can change, generally Ohio punishments can include:

  • First-degree felony -- Three to 10 years in prison, fines up to $20,000 or both
  • Second-degree felony -- Two to 8 years in prison, fines up to $15,000 or both
  • Third-degree felony -- One to five years in prison, fines up to $5,000 or both
  • Fourth-degree felony -- Six to 18 months in prison, fines up to $5,000 or both
  • Fifth-degree felony -- Six to 12 months in prison, fines up to $2,500 or both
  • First-degree misdemeanor -- Up to 180 days in jail, fines up to $1,000 or both

If you are facing drug charges, it is important to know your options. If you are a first-time, non-violent offender, you may be eligible for a diversion program. No matter the situation, a Columbus drug defense attorney can help you fight the charges. Your future is important and a drug conviction could be a heavy burden.

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