UPDATE 2/21/13 @ 10 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP, WSAZ) -- Authorities say they're seeing an alarming increase in heroin trafficking in West Virginia.
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said Thursday that while prescription drugs represent the biggest crime problem in West Virginia's southern district, heroin seizures have increased more than fourfold from 2011 to 2012.
Scott Masumoto of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says prescription drugs sold on the street can cost $80 per pill or more. That makes it difficult for teenagers to sustain their addictions, so they are moving to "cheaper" alternatives such as heroin.
Federal statistics show West Virginia has the second-highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the nation.
They spoke during prescription drug seminars held in Charleston and Huntington. Other speakers included U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, Congressman Nick Rahall and White House Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske.
Cabell County Sheriff Tom McComas was also in attendance and talked about the dangers in the recent growth of heroin trafficking.
"Since it's not manufactured through a hygienic or appropriate facility, it's resulted in numerous overdose deaths in our region due to those individuals partaking not knowing the strength of something someone made in probably not a very sanitary location," McComas said.
Kerlikowske says he'll take what he heard Thursday back to Washington.
"You've heard the president say on a number of occasions that we need to approach this from the prevention and treatment side," Kerlikowske said.
U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller and Congressman Nick Rahall will participate in the discussions in Huntington and Charleston.
Expected to join them are White House Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske and U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin.
The discussions will include law enforcement efforts to address doctor offices and pharmacies that over-prescribe addictive medicines. Other subjects include information sharing and training initiatives among drug task forces, and greater public access to substance abuse and mental health treatment programs.
Rockefeller and Rahall have reintroduced bills to fight prescription drug abuse. Sen. Joe Manchin is a co-sponsor of Rockefeller's Senate bill. A similar bill introduced in 2011 never came up for a vote in the Senate.
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