ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Drug agents say the heroin increase began last year and is growing dramatically this year.
The heroin problem is tied to the prescription pill epidemic seen in recent years.
South Georgia drug agents and other officers are taking steps to safeguard themselves from this increased heroin threat.
The Albany Dougherty Metro SWAT team now is equipped Air Purifying Respirators to protect their breathing and skin after a Midwest SWAT team was sickened raiding a heroin den.
ADDU Lt. George Camp said "Going into any type of search warrant situation, where we know that heroin is possibly within the mix. To include eye protection, gloves, because some of that an be absorbed through the skin and pores."
Both Dougherty and Lee County drug squads say they are seeing increasing signs of heroin sales and use on the streets around metro Albany.
In 2013 ADDU did not seize any heroin. This year, they've already found more than 163 grams of heroin, with more at the crime lab now being identified.
Drug agents say the crackdown on prescription pills has driven addicts to heroin, because it's cheaper and easier to find.
Camp said "When you look at one pill of oxycodone, hydrocodone can go anywhere between $15 to $40 a pill, depending on milligram. And then when you are looking at heroin it's a fraction of the cost."
But health experts warn heroin is much more addictive than prescription pills, and in other parts of the nation it is being sold with dangerous chemicals added.
Drug agents say they are seeing heroin as part of about 4 in every 10 drug sales busts.