it can kill before users even take the needles from their arms - available for just £7
A potent wave of cheap heroin which can kill users before they pull the syringe from their veins is spreading across America.
Drug smugglers are selling the ‘black tar’ substance for as little as £7 ($10) a bag, raising concerns that its cost will widen its appeal with addicts.
The heroin – named for its dark, gooey consistency – which is being grown in Mexico and Colombia and taken to the U.S., is so pure, it can kill unsuspecting users instantly.
Potent: Dealers in Mexico have produced an 80 per cent pure heroin which can kill instantly
Black tar and other forms of the drug are behind a rise in the number of drug overdose deaths as it attracts a new generation of users who are caught off guard by its potency.
In suburban Chicago’s Will County, annual heroin deaths have nearly tripled from 10 in 2006 to 29.
Patrick O’Neil, coroner in the town, said: ‘We found people who snorted it lying face-down with the straw lying next to them.
‘It's so potent that we occasionally find the needle in the arm at the death scene.’
Authorities are concerned that the potency and price of the heroin could widen the drug's appeal, just as crack did for cocaine decades ago.
The substance comes in the form of black tar or brown powder, and it has proven especially popular in rural and suburban areas.
Originally associated with rock stars, hippies and inner-city junkies, heroin in the 1970s was usually smuggled from Asia and the Middle East and was around 5 per cent pure.
The rest was ‘filler’ such as sugar, starch, powdered milk, even brick dust. The low potency meant that many users injected the drug to maximise the effect.
But in recent years, Mexican drug dealers have improved the way they process poppies, the brightly colored flowers supplied by drug farmers that provide the raw ingredients for heroin, opium and painkillers such as morphine.
Purity levels have increased, and prices have fallen.
Federal agents now commonly find heroin that is 50 per cent pure and sometimes as much as 80 per cent pure.
The greater potency allows more heroin users to snort the drug or smoke it and still achieve a sustained high - an attractive alternative for teenagers and suburbanites who don't want the HIV risk or the track marks on their arms that come with repeated injections.
Harry Sommers, the agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Agency office in St Louis, said: ‘That has opened up heroin to a whole different group of users.’
Demand: Mexican tar heroin seized by police. Dealers are selling bags for as little as £7
William Henderson, a 29-year-old welder from rural Missouri, died in his sleep in 2009, hours after snorting heroin. He was 6ft 1ins tall and weighed more than 21 stone.
His wife, Amanda, with whom he had three children, said Mr Henderson’s body had turned blue, and his stomach was cold to the touch.
‘I kept telling him, “Will, you're late - get up!” But he wasn't moving, wasn't breathing. I called (police dispatchers), but I knew it was too late.’
At the start of the decade, roughly 2,000 people a year died from heroin overdoses nationwide, according to records kept by the Centers for Disease Control.
By 2008, the most recent year for which figures are available, the drug was blamed for at least 3,000 deaths in the 36 states that responded to records requests from the Associated Press.
Seizures of heroin along the U.S.-Mexico border quadrupled from 2008 to 2009, from about 44lb (20kgs) to more than 190lb (86kgs).
In the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, more than 20 deaths were blamed on heroin in 2009.
Analysis of heroin purchased undercover found the drug was nearly 60 per cent pure - the highest average purity in the U.S.
At the same time, the price was among the lowest.
Carol Falkowski, director of the alcohol and drug abuse division for the Minnesota Department of Human Services, said: ‘This is consistent with how crack cocaine was introduced in the 1970s, when it was a high-purity product sold at a low price.’
To hook new users, dealers are selling heroin cheap - often around £7 ($10) a bag.
Police are concerned about a growing heroin problem tied to Mexican street gangs from nearby Los Angeles.
Gang members make the quick drive up to deliver heroin straight to high school kids.
‘They tell them, “Just smoke it. It's just like smoking a cigarette. It's just like smoking marijuana”,’ Glendale police Sergeant Tom Lorenz said. Once the kids are hooked, ‘they've got a customer forever’.
In Oregon, state Medical Examiner Karen Gunson said the heroin problem is worst in communities along the interstate.
There were 131 heroin-related overdose deaths last year - 42 more than three years earlier.
The dead simply didn't know the risks of the heroin they used, she said.
‘We're seeing it sometimes 80 per cent pure. There's no FDA approval on this stuff. If you're using it every day, your chances grow and grow that it's going to kill you,’ she added.Short URL:
The pure heroin so potent
Posted on Wednesday, June 02, 2010 @ 23:28:39 EDT in Drugs