While the number of large-scale heroin sales appears to be dropping in Franklin County, narcotics investigators say the drug is still prevalent and always dangerous.

“It’s still a huge problem as far as drugs causing death,” said Detective Sgt. Jason Grellner, head of the Franklin County Narcotics Enforcement Unit.

“It’s unforgiving,” Grellner said of heroin and synthetic opioids like oxycontin. “If you get the dose wrong and no one is there with you, you’re dead.”

Grellner said investigators have noticed recently that the purity of heroin in this area has stabilized, which means that accidental overdoses have decreased among longtime users.

That and the growing use of Narcan, a drug that blocks the effects of heroin overdose, has resulted in fewer cases of death, he noted, but not overdoses.

“We still get a call about every three weeks about an overdose, either a death or cases where the paramedics had to be called,” Grellner said.

Those calls, he said, come from all parts of the county.

The investigator said the drug task force has not seen any evidence of large-scale dealers moving into the county.

“We’re still seeing small amounts of the drug”, he noted. The typical amounts seen are small capsules, called “beans,” which contain about one-tenth of a gram of heroin.

“No one has set up shop in the county,” Grellner said of bigger dealers. “We continue to see people who drive to St. Louis, sometimes twice a day, to buy the drug.

“What we’re not seeing is dealers with 100 to 200 capsules at a time — we put those guys away. Now, we’re seeing small amounts, 20 capsules at most,” Grellner explained.

Most of the people using heroin are well-known to narcotics investigators.

“It’s many of the same players,” Grellner remarked.

He said the task force and Union police recently served a search warrant for drugs at a mobile home. Two people were at the home.

“We had dealt with both of them before,” Grellner said. “The girl there had just gotten out of rehab less than 48 hours earlier.”

Heroin users are finding new ways to get high.

“Now, we see cases where they are mixing methamphetamine with heroin — the old-fashioned speedball,” Grellner said.