Heroin-impaired driving causing big trouble in River City

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Sober for a year now, Healing Place peer counselor Justin Clark says in his 18 years of addiction, with 3 DUI’s, driving under the influence was normal for an opiate junkie, dangerously abnormal in anyone else’s eyes.

“I knew a gentleman who ran into the back of a car and killed a baby in the back seat,” Clark said. “That could have easily been me. 

“You can sit at a stop light for 5 to 10 minutes. I just swerved left and right and in ditches; my truck shows the pains of my driving.”

West Virginia State Police Sergeant Mike Divita said it has become an epidemic, especially with heroin.

State police, out of the Huntington post, spot and arrest heroin- and opiate-impaired drivers like drunk drivers but with a few twists.

“They weave in and out of lanes, often drive much slower,” Divita said. “[It’s] very noticeable.”

Huntington police have dedicated drug recognition experts on staff now specializing in heroin-impaired drivers in neighboring Kenova. Kenova’s police chief says a weekend call to the Taco Bell drive thru found a reoccurring trend.

“We responded and had a driver under the influence and passed out,” said Chief Ray Mossman of Kenova Police Department. “They also had heroin in the car.”

Chief Mossman said, with 45 percent of the DUI’s so far this year being opiate-related, a new plan may be in order.

“I would imagine there’s a lot we are missing on the heroin right now,” he said. “With the breathalyzers, they blow into the field unit and we release them. I’m not sure we are pursuing that well right now. It’s something we should look into.”

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