GASTONIA, N.C.-- As the nationwide opioid crisis wears on, prisons and jails throughout the country, including in the Charlotte region, are dealing with an influx of synthetic opioids being sent to inmates through the mail.
In the past year, deputies at the Gaston County Jail have seen a spike in the number of cases where tiny strips of suboxone are hidden in the seams of envelopes, underneath stamps and melted into drawings.
"We've seen some very crazy things," Sergeant "Johnathan Lomrick said. "The ingenuity is amazing."
Suboxone is used treat opioid addiction, akin to methadone, but it's also frequently abused.
It can be absorbed through the skin, and it delivers a high similar to heroin.
As a result of the drug's potency, and the ease in hiding it, many people are attempting to use any type of mail, from business cards to greeting cards, to smuggle the drug into the jail.
"They don't want to do without their drug," Major Becky Cauthran said. "They don't want to go through the withdrawals."
It also presents a danger to people who handle mail, including postal workers, deputies and office workers, because simply touching suboxone can lead to a deadly overdose.
Jail deputies have instituted new rules for handling the mail, including xeroxing greeting cards for inmates instead of handing them the original card.
Though deputies caution now that they're keeping close eye on mail, criminals will likely start to look for other ways to smuggle in drugs.