The sheriffs of Anoka and Hennepin counties are shining a spotlight on the increasing use of heroin in the Twin Cities.
Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek says heroin arrests and deaths have been rising for more than a decade, and have spiked in the last two years.
"Thirty-six confirmed deaths in the metro area here due to heroin overdose, which is a concern to us as law enforcement officers," said Stanek. "This is an alarming trend -- a high number."
Stanek says one reason may be that heroin sold today is purer than it was a few decades ago.
"Years ago it was commonly injected. And now we're seeing that you're able to inhale it," said Stanek. "So young people don't have ... the experience or the knowledge base to be able to either cut it -- or they just inhale it pure and they get way too much of it. And it's causing them to go into asphyxiation and eventually die."
In the first 11 months of 2009, the number of deaths attributed to heroin in the metro area rose 57 percent from a year earlier.
There were 10 heroin-related deaths in Hennepin County alone in 2009. There have been five in Anoka County over the last 14 months.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)