Police in Baldwin County are dealing with an influx of heroin use they say might be connected to a crackdown on prescription painkillers. Last week, officers in Fairhope arrested two people for heroin possession and one for methamphetamine possession.
Fairhope Police Sgt. Craig Sawyer said the city has seen a surge of arrests for heroin and methamphetamine possession in the last few weeks, and he believes it coincides with a crackdown on prescription painkillers. In May, Lagniappe reported on the arrest of a pair of doctors associated with Physician’s Pain Specialists of Alabama, which coincided with a Drug Enforcement Agency operation focused on “pill mills” in four states including Alabama.
“We believe some long time prescription pain pill users developed a dependency on opiates from doctors,” Sawyer said on Monday. “Some of those people who can no longer get prescription opiates are now turning to illegal drugs.”
Samantha Goodwin Rohe, 35, of Fairhope was arrested Sept. 9 on Greeno Road near McGowin Drive for heroin possession and drug paraphernalia. According to the offense report released by Fairhope Police, officers recovered a cotton ball that tested positive for heroin and a plastic spoon containing residue during the investigation. She was released into the custody of the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) on Sept. 11 before being released entirely on a $10,000 bond. Online jail records indicate Rohe had a previous arrest for first degree theft in July.
Wesley Craig Comalander II, of Daphne, was arrested Sept. 6 and charged with heroin possession, illegal possession of prescription drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia. The police offense report shows officers discovered cotton balls containing suspected heroin residue, a black case with syringes and a silver spoon, which is commonly used to cook heroin. Comalander, 26, was released into BCSO custody on Sept. 7. Online jail records indicate Comalander was released on bond the same day.
On Sept. 4, officers arrested Timothy Ray Stovall, 51, of Fairhope on County Road 33 near Baldwin Lane and charged him with possession of methamphetamine. Stovall was released into the custody of the BCSO on Sept. 6, and online jail records show he continues to be held at the Baldwin County Corrections Center on a $5,000 bond.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, heroin-related overdose deaths quadrupled between 2002 and 2013, when 8,200 people died from the drug nationwide. CDC figures also show heroin use has increased in demographic groups with historically low use of the drug like women, the privately insured and people with higher incomes.
Maj. Anthony Lowery from the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office said heroin use has become a problem in the county over the last few years. He said it is a county wide problem and is not isolated to one area or the other, but a significant amount of heroin arrests seem to come from the Eastern Shore and south ends of the county.
“Heroin used to be something we encountered on occasion, but recently it has become something we frequently deal with,” Lowery said. “And it is not just heroin use, but overdoses and addiction.”
Lowery said the county usually lags behind national drug trends, and the same has happened with national heroin trends. The crackdown on prescription painkillers could have played a role in recent arrests, he said.
“I think it is partly due to that,” Lowery said. “Heroin is sometimes cheaper than prescription drugs, so that is a factor as well.”
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.
It looks like you are opening this page from the Facebook App. This article needs to be opened in the browser.
iOS: Tap the three dots in the top right, then tap on "Open in Safari".
Android: Tap the Settings icon (it looks like three horizontal lines), then tap App Settings, then toggle the "Open links externally" setting to On (it should turn from gray to blue).