ROANOKE, Va. – Law enforcement officers across the country are facing an uphill battle in combating the opioid epidemic, so WSLS 10 sat down with a Roanoke City undercover detective to get some insight.
"I never saw heroin for the first three years of my career and nowadays it's very, very common," the undercover detective said.
He says the drug problem has changed dramatically in recent years and it doesn't discriminate.
"It's the affluent neighborhoods. It's the lower income neighborhoods. It's everywhere. A lot of them are normal people. I mean they're moms and they're people with well-paying jobs. It's easy not to care until somebody in your family gets addicted to it," the detective said.
They're also now seeing a lot of drugs coming through the mail.
"It's very easy to walk to your local FedEx or UPS and drop a box or give a box to them and it comes to your front door," the detective said.
He says fixing the problem starts with educating children.
“You see prescription pills, your parents have prescription pills, you don't as a kid really think this is a problem. This comes from a doctor, it's not illegal, I'm not buying it from a guy on the street so it's OK," the detective said.
Officers say arresting people won't solve the problem. That's why initiatives like the Hope Program are so important. The Roanoke Police Department connects people with resources like the Bradley Free Clinic to help them beat their addiction.
"You come in, you tell us what you want and we help you get that," Roanoke City Police Crime Prevention Specialist Scott Leamon said.
Since August, they've helped about 90 participants.
"When you give people hope, then they start moving again. They start moving forward," Leamon said.
Officers say that hope could help anyone overcome this crisis.
"The way that we're moving, it's only a matter of time before somebody you know gets addicted to heroin,” the undercover detective said.
Click here for more information on the Hope Program.