Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- It saw a small dip in usage over some of the past decade, but law enforcement and medical experts alike say heroin usage is again becoming a reality in the Midlands.
The drug can be known for its crippling addiction, and that addiction could be reaching a younger crowd.
"We find two different kinds of heroin in the City of Columbia," said Agent Anthony Branham of the Department's Narcotics Unit. "The first kind is powder heroin, and it's known on the street as 'dog food.' Along with that we see tar heroin."
Since the end of last summer, Branham says his unit has made six heroin-related arrests, including one University of South Carolina student, found to be in possession of what amounts to $2,700 worth of heroin, making that a bust large enough to be considered drug trafficking, Branham said.
"It is starting to gain some more ground among younger users," Branham said. "What we're finding is around that time period, persons will be involved in accidents."
From there, Branham said it's not difficult to slip into addiction. Part of that reason may be because heroin is made from a family of what are known as opiates. Opiates are found in powerful pain killers like morphine.
Once a person becomes addicted to pain killers made from opiates, they can begin seeking newer, deeper highs, eventually leading to heroin.
"We normally find that the usage of the heroin is in the North Main area of (Richalnd) County," Branham said.
Sumter, Newberry, Calhoun, Fairfield and Kershaw Counties told News19 they have not seen many cases of heroin usage, according to officials we spoke to at the various sheriffs' offices.
Kershaw County has experienced one death due to overdose, while Charleston and Greenville Counties had two overdose deaths each, according to 2012 data from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. York County had three overdose deaths.
DHEC officials said 2012 was the most recent data available.
"Most of it comes in through the northeast section of the United States, and then it filters on down," Branham said.
At the Palmetto Health Adolescent Recovery Center, Dr. Bryan Fox helps treat patients recovering from opiate abuse, including those getting treatment for heroin usage.
"They put you in a euphoric state," Fox said. "Usually the first high that you get, particularly off something like heroin, is very, very intense. Chasing the dragon is chasing that idea."