Twin Cities has the cheapest and strongest heroin in the country, officials say [PHOTO]

Officials displayed samples of the drugs they're finding on Twin Cities streets during today's news conference.
Officials displayed samples of the drugs they're finding on Twin Cities streets during today's news conference.

Heroin is a bigger problem than ever in the Twin Cities, and especially in Hennepin County, law enforcement officials said at a news conference today.

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At the newser, a doctor said there were four heroin-related deaths reported in Hennepin County in 2008. Last year, that number shot up to 37, and Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek said the county is on pace to set a new record this year.

Stanek also said the heroin he's seeing these days in Hennepin County is the cheapest and strongest in the country, a combination he characterized as particularly deadly.

His comments reiterated what law enforcement officials said at a similar news conference last year. Then, they referenced an analysis showing that some heroin found on Twin Cities' streets was up to 93 percent pure, whereas typical American street heroin has a purity of about 35 percent.

"A heroin user in the Twin Cities has a greater chance of accidental overdose because the purity of that heroin is so high," Stanek said during that news conference.

At today's newser, officials pointed out the role prescription drugs play as a gateway to heroin. According to the Star Tribune, data showed that heroin and prescription drug abuse in the Twin Cities reached an all-time high last year. The two accounted for 21 percent of all addiction treatments in the state, with only alcohol abuse accounting for a higher share.

In April, members of the Dakota County Drug Task Force announced that officers made the largest heroin bust in county history when they stumbled across 2.6 pounds tucked inside a car outside an apartment building.

Last summer, MPR reported that most of the heroin on Twin Cities streets comes from Mexico. In the report, Jerry Edblad, a lieutenant with the St. Cloud Police Department, shared this theory about why the stuff coming into MSP is so pure.

"We're pretty confident that they've been instructed -- those that are selling it -- not to do any cutting with it, meaning mix other chemicals in and try and get a bigger bang for the amount," he said. "That is probably because they are creating a user base in this region of high-potency, very inexpensive heroin. And once they have that user base set up, of course they'll cut it down, double their profits and raise the price."

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at [email protected]

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