KASSON — Why would Minnesota have the purest heroin at some of the cheapest prices in the nation?
"Why would dealers do that?" Hennepin County Medical Center's Dr. Charles Reznikoff asked a group of about 100 people in Kasson-Mantorville High School gym on Monday.
Beginning in 2007, authorities discovered that heroin seized in Minnesota was more pure and cheaper than elsewhere.
"It looked like someone was trying to establish a heroin market," Reznikoff said. "And sure enough; here it is 2013, and there's one here."
The drug is transported straight up Interstate 35 from Mexico to the Twin Cities and then is distributed throughout the state, he said.
"It's like cigarette companies handing out free packs of cigarettes in bars. They know they'll soon have customers who will pay a lot of money for a pack," Reznikoff said.
People wishing to dispose of unwanted prescription drugs can drop them off from 10 am. to 2 p.m. April 27 at the Gonda Building turnaround.
The Kasson Police Department and the Dodge County Sheriff's Office also have drug drop off boxes at their respective offices.
"St Louis has the least pure and the most expensive heroin. They have an established market, so dealers can charge what they want."
How do everyday people, your next-door neighbor, your child become addicted to heroin? Isn't that a drug people in the gutter use? he asked rhetorically.
"Heroin rides the pharmaceutical industry," he answered.
Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin are all opioid drugs, along with morphine and heroin. All are derived from the poppy.
If someone becomes addicted to those prescription painkillers, they're expensive to buy on the black market. But heroin is cheap. Some users actually sell their painkillers at a profit to get money to buy heroin, he said.
Reznikoff explained the three kinds of heroin available in the Twin Cities. The most common is brown or beige heroin. That heroin and the less common white powdered heroin can be snorted.
"That (somehow) makes users feel safer," Reznikoff said. "'Oh, I can snort this drug instead of using it intravenously.'"
But once you're hooked, you'll do anything to keep getting it, he said.
"There are no days off. Within 24 hours, a user will go into full withdrawal, and it is awful," he said.
The other common heroin is black tar heroin. It is less expensive and can be smoked or used intravenously.
A woman in the audience asked, "How does it get such a hold on you?"
Opioids change users' bodies, Reznikoff said.
"Opioids control the amount of pain and the amount of anxiety you feel. After about a month, your body develops an appetite for the drug, like the body's appetite for air, water, or sleep."
Rachel Schlingmann's addiction started with painkillers from a boyfriend with bloodshot eyes.
"'Mom, just leave him alone,'" Sharon Schlingmann remembers Rachel saying at the beginning of the relationship.
Rachel, 23, worked full time, she went to college and got good grades.
"She was a strong, smart woman," Sharon Schlingmann told the crowd, until everything fell apart. She lost her job, her driver's license, everything.
Rachel Schlingmann died of a heroin overdose on Aug. 10, 2012, in Rochester.
Just before her death, Rachel told her mother, "It's like the devil has my soul, and he won't let go."
Schlingmann warned audience members: "If they [your children] are treating you bad, if their eyes are red or the pupils are really small, if you have any inkling, any indication about your child, go get help."
Tim Volz, of EmPower CTC (Comprehensive Treatment Center), an outpatient treatment center in Rochester, said that the center has a new program centered on heroin use. He said the program started in January 2012 with one patient, and now it has about 20.
At the end of his talk, Reznikoff asked audience members to go home and clean out their medicine cabinets.
Monday's seminar was sponsored by the Dodge County Drug Court, Family Services Collaborative, the Dodge County Sheriff's Office and Kasson Police Department.