Heroin spreads to suburbs

Alex Ring
Business Manager

Heroin comes in a white or brown powder that can be snorted or smoked.  (Photo provided by the Drug Enforcement Agency)
Heroin comes in a white or brown powder that can be snorted or smoked. (Photo provided by the Drug Enforcement Agency)

Heroin use is rising in popularity among suburban teens. The opiate caused deaths in Missouri to double in recent years, with 90 percent of those deaths occurring in St. Louis, according to St. Louis Public Radio.

Theodore Cicero, Washington University Medical School professor, monitored the spike in heroin. According to his study, 20 percent of people visiting drug clinics last year were seeking help for heroin, compared to 10 percent the year before.

Heroin use is experiencing a rise in popularity because it comes in a powder form which removes the fear of needles. It can be smoked, snorted or injected. It’s also becoming more popular because other similar prescription drugs are becoming harder to get, and heroin is a cheaper solution.
Heroin enters the brain rapidly that it is both extremely psychologically and physically. Heroin abusers report feeling a surge of euphoria or “rush,” followed by a twilight state of sleep and wakefulness, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.

According to Officer Dan Dixon, heroin is sold in increments of “quarter gram, half gram and gram that are usually packaged in balloons, baggies or pill capsules called buttons.” Buttons are roughly a quarter gram and sell for about $8-12 a button.

Almost 80 percent of people who recently started to use heroin said they had previously used prescription painkillers illegally, according to “HealthDay.”

The impact of heroin affects a young age group with 53 percent of all victims of heroin-associated deaths across Missouri between the ages of 15 and 35. Health and Senior Services said this age group is generally young because users can get addicted the first time trying the drug.
Dealers often give the first hit for free because the newly addicted user will continue buying from that dealer.

Street heroin in the Midwest region can be 70-90 percent pure. Users and dealers will cut the heroin with Prolex DM and Quinine, which are cough medicines that add a drowsy effect to the high. The main reason for cutting heroin that has such high purity is to end up with more quantity to sell.
There is no quality control, so users never fully know what they are getting. The uncertainty leads to more problems because one day they will have to take two shots to get the high off of the 70 percent pure heroin and then the next day try two shots again, but this time they got 90 percent pure, and they will overdose.

Heroin makes the user physically dependent, so the body experiences withdrawals. This is also known as being dope sick, and users can die because of how intense it is. Symptoms include intense heroin cravings, profuse sweating, severe muscle and bone aches, nausea and vomiting, intense cramping in limbs, resulting in “kicking” and diarrhea. The body panics when it is not high on the drug, and so drug rehab clinics have the user take a synthetic heroin that is less potent and slowly wean them off of that.

About heroin usage in the community, Dixon said, “I have come across three people who overdosed in the past year. I’ve also had three or four people ask me for help because of their addiction, but the total number of people on the drug in the community is unsure.”

“The records show that five years ago was when the usage peaked, and over the past years it has declined, but it is now showing signs of increasing,” Dixon said.

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