GARDAI believe that heroin has figured as a contributory factor in at least eight deaths in the county since 2011.
It has not been confirmed that the death of Natasha Donovan was as a result of a heroin overdose, they said. However, gardaí believe the highly-addictive drug may have played a part in the young Tralee mother's tragic death.
Heroin first began coming into the county in significant quantities around 2006, according to Kerry Divisional Drugs Unit head Detective Sergeant Declan Liddane (right). It was then that gardaí first made considerable seizures of the illegal drug and began planning what was to become a very effective response to the growing heroin threat in the county.
"2006 saw the first seizure in Kerry and the supply appears to have peaked around 2008 and 2009. In co-operation with colleagues in Limerick and Cork we began targeting specific dealers with all the resources we had at our disposal and we quickly put a lot of them out of commission," Sgt Liddane said. "We almost held up the supply completely, but unfortunately it is a very addictive substance and users can and will get their hands on it by travelling to the bigger cities like Cork and Limerick."
Although very little heroin is currently available in Kerry, gardaí take the presence of any amount of the drug extremely seriously, he added.
Heroin abuse in Kerry is not confined to the county's main towns and senior gardaí in north Kerry say that up to 20 people in the region use the drug on a regular basis. There is no intravenous heroin use in north Kerry however as those addicted opt to smoke the drug, which is considered less harmful than the intravenous use that leads to more serious addiction.