Pubdate: Fri, 22 Sep 2000
Source: (US Web)
Copyright: 2000 Cable News Network, Inc.
Author: Pierre Thomas


Drug's Cleaner Image Pushes Its Popularity

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Four years ago, Kathryn Logan was 15 and a
straight-A student at a suburban high school.

Now, at 19, she's at a California treatment center trying to piece
together a life shattered by drugs, especially heroin.

"I've totaled cars, I've lived on the streets, I've gone through some
things in my life that I never thought I'd go through," she says.

Heroin, an insidious drug long associated with the inner city, began
spreading to the suburbs and towns in the last decade and has been
claiming more and more victims like Kathryn Logan.

Heroin abuse soared in the 1990s -- although studies show it may have
leveled off or declined in the last two years.

According to one government estimate, the number of hard-core heroin
users jumped from 630,000 in 1992 to 980,000 in 1998.

Especially alarming is the fact that the average age of first-time
heroin users has dropped, from 21 in 1994 to 17 in 1997.

Logan and other teen-age heroin addicts warned Congress about the
threat last spring.

"I made life a nightmare for my family," she said.

"I overdosed at least seven times," said another addict,

"I felt like I was slave to the addiction," said Michael.

Heroin in Vermont

All three were examples of how heroin is reaching places you might not
expect it to reach, such as Burlington, Vermont.

"Basically all of our drug work now is heroin," says Lt. Emmit Helrich
of the Burlington Police Department. "I don't know if it's sneaking up
on people, but I know that the parents who come to us with their
children are just totally shocked to find out that their child is
using heroin."

"We want to just alert people that it's just as serious in suburbia
for younger people as it is for older people in urban areas of
America," said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

Cheaper, purer, easier to get

Drug lords from Southeast Asia, Mexico and, increasingly, Colombia
have made heroin more readily available, as well as cheaper and more
potent, than ever.

According to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, in 1980 a
milligram of heroin typically sold for $3.80 and was about 3.6 percent

By 1998, the price of a milligram of heroin had fallen to just 96
cents -- and was more than 41 percent pure.

DEA officials say they now commonly find heroin that is 90 percent

Heroin's new glamour

The high purity is changing the way heroin is consumed. It's so pure
it can be snorted or smoked----rather than injected. And that, the DEA
says, is removing the stigma of heroin use and causing more people to
try the drug.

"Years ago, and traditionally, a heroin addict was always looked down
upon," says DEA Operations Chief Richard Fiano. "You looked at the
track marks of heroin addicts. They would shoot it in their arms, they
would shoot it in their inner thighs, they would shoot it under the
tongue. There would be ulcerated sores on their arms, on their legs,
and they'd be laying out in the street."

Now, he says, "I think it's becoming an acceptable drug. It's becoming
a glamorous drug, and I don't think they know the downfalls and
pitfalls of utilizing heroin."

Deaths on the rise

The number of heroin and morphine-related hospital emergency cases has
exploded -- going from 48,000 in 1992 to 84,000 in 1999 -- and, in
some places, heroin-related deaths are on the rise.

Oregon, which had 59 heroin deaths in 1990, recorded 195 in 1999. The
vacation city of Orlando, Florida, had 18 heroin deaths in 1995 but 50
last year.

Logan is not surprised.

"The fact is, that it is everywhere," she says. "It's in the smallest
town. It's in the biggest town. There's nowhere to really hide."

In part two of this series: CNN Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas
looks at Baltimore, Maryland, which has one of the most serious drug
problems in the United States. 
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