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Highly Potent Heroin Has Tight Grip On Metro

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Heroin deaths in the Twin Cities are on pace to hit a new record this year.

So far in 2013, 15 people have died from heroin overdose in Hennepin, Scott, and Dakota counties.

It isn't a new problem, but is far more dangerous than a few years ago.

Authorities said the heroin they're taking off the streets in the metro is the cheapest and purest in the country.

At 29, Amanda has never been so excited for her future.

"I'm so relieved and happy to be away from the addiction," she said. "It's a 24/7 grip on your life."

MN Adult and Teen Challenge helped her overcome an addiction of heroin. But there are those who aren't so lucky.

"It's an enormous problem, it's getting worse," said Dr. David Roberts of North Memorial.

Roberts of North Memorial said the heroin problem is measured in patients.

In 2008, Hennepin County had four heroin deaths -- in 2012 there were 37.

And this year, heroin overdoses could reach an all-time high.

"The deaths are often rapid because heroin suppresses respiration you slip into a coma and you simply stop breathing," he said.

Part of the issue is the drug now comes in several forms, making it appealing to almost all demographics.

"Twenty-five years ago you had to inject it," Rich Stanek said. "Now you can ingest it by snorting it, and you can smoke it."

Abuse of prescription medications, heroin's gateway drug, is also on the rise. That's how Amanda got started and it almost cost her everything.

"We were shooting up every day so that we would feel OK," she said. "Well enough to go to work to make money so that we could buy more drugs."

Law enforcement said these drugs are coming in from out of state, mainly from the southwestern part of the country.

One reason heroin is so cheap and is so concentrated in Minnesota is because it's a relatively new market compared to other large cities.

Younger people are using heroin more, but this problem is all ages and all over the state.

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