Pubdate: Sat, 23 Nov 2002
Source: Lodi News-Sentinel (CA)
Copyright: 2002 Lodi News-Sentinel
Author: Layla Bohm, News-Sentinel staff writer
Bookmark: (Heroin)


She grew up in the area, attended a Lodi high school and became the
mother of two children. Her two brothers, sister and parents also
lived in Lodi.

Lori Huft-James and her older sister were close friends when they were
younger, but over the years the relationship began to fade.

Looking back on it, her older sister, Karen Moreno, knows why they
became estranged: Moreno had an expensive habit -- a 23-year addiction
to the illegal drug known as heroin.

Lori Huft-James

"We were at odds for years. When you're on heroin you do things, you
rip off your family. I took things from her," Moreno said, her voice
fading away.

Moreno, now 44, finally began trying to kick the heroin habit, and she
and her sister made up and put the past behind them early last year.
But they only had one month.

On the afternoon of Tuesday, March 12, Lodi Police officers found the
bodies of Huft-James and her husband, 49-year-old Jarrett Lee James,
on the floor of their living room.

They had apparently died two days earlier, and both were on their
knees in a fetal position, Huft-James with her arm around her
husband's neck, police officers said at the time.

Toxicology reports from the coroner's office determined that a mixture
of drugs, including heroin, led to their deaths.

Karen Moreno

The case is not an isolated one in San Joaquin County. And Lodi is
not immune to the problems that now plague many cities in California.
They don't know that some Lodi residents inject the drug known as
Mexican tar heroin into their veins every day, sometimes nearly every
hour. Others smoke or snort it.

While heroin is a long-standing problem in the county, it has worsened
with the influx of the drug from Mexico.

As opposed to preceding forms of heroin, Mexican tar is cheaper,
easier to buy, and easier to ingest. It is also more highly
concentrated -- and more lethal. Its higher purity is why it can be
snorted or smoked, drawing in many users had had blanched at the
prospect of plunging a needle in their arm.

A state Department of Justice expert said Mexican tar is behind a
sharp regional increase in the use of heroin.

"Most people don't like needles. Take the needle away, and people
aren't afraid of heroin anymore. Once, only down-and-outers used it.
Now you have rock stars and actors, doctors and teachers involved in
heroin," said Frank Thompson, a retired supervisor with the state
Department of Justice. Thompson now teaches narcotics enforcement at
the department's advanced training center in Sacramento. (Over time,
Thompson said most users will themselves to use a needle because the
high is faster and virtually none of the precious drugs is wasted.)

While cocaine, methamphetamine and Ecstasy have received much
attention in recent years, heroin remains the most addictive drug, and
the drug most likely to kill.

Heroin Jargon

The subculture of heroin abuse has developed a jargon all its own.
Here's a sampler.

Black Tar: Crude form of heroin produced in Mexico. The heroin is sold as a 
black sap substance resembling common tar. Though a crude form of the drug, 
it typically has a higher concentration of heroin than other forms and has 
led to more fatal overdoses.

Chasing the Dragon: To smoke heroin.

China White: White powdered heroin, typically produced in Europe or Asia. 
In California, China White has largely been replaced by Black Tar Heroin.

Chipping: Recreational, often weekend, use of heroin. Some experts warn 
that chipping often leads to full-blown addiction and the need for the drug 
on a daily basis.

Glory Hole: A puncture wound that has become badly infected.

Horning: To inhale heroin.

Horse, Charley, Dirt, Scag, Smack: Some of the more common street terms for 

Nod, commonly, "on the nod.": The period after a heroin addict shoots
up. Addicts go into a drowsy, euphoric state and their chins actually
drop as if they are napping.

Speedball: A mixture of cocaine and heroin. A speedball is what reportedly 
took the life of comedian John Belushi.

- -- News-Sentinel staff

The numbers underline heroin's renewed popularity and deadly

Of the 25 deaths attributed to illicit drugs in San Joaquin County
last year, 21 of them were tied to heroin overdoses, said Sheriff's
Sgt. Bill Fellers, with the coroner's office.

Heroin is now the second most abused drug in Northern California,
according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

In San Joaquin County alone, there are at least 4,000 heroin addicts,
said George Feicht, alcohol and drug program administrator for the

Police experts in Lodi and San Joaquin County say heroin users account
for a majority of the residential burglaries in the county.

Nearly all heroin used in California is transported from Mexico along
major state highways and sold as a black, tar-like substance. Located
between Interstate 5 and Highway 99, Lodi sees traffic from both major

While violent crimes are not often associated with heroin use,
burglaries and robberies rise almost exponentially in areas frequented
by heroin users, Rivera said.

The habit is quite costly, and addicts often find themselves needing
as much as $200 a day to support their habit, Rivera said.

"Anything that will make people neglect their children and steal from
their families is a very dangerous drug," he said.

That's just what heroin does, once it gets a hold of people, the
23-year Sheriff's Department veteran said.

"Once the people become addicted, there is nothing they won't
compromise," he said. "There are girls living nightmare existences on
the streets. They'll get gang raped and beat up and go back out on the
streets the next night."

Lodi is not immune from the horrors of heroin, and Huft-James and
Moreno are two such examples.

Moreno still can't believe her sister is gone. Huft-James, who would
have turned 38 on Sept. 25, wasn't a heroin user, Moreno said.

"My sister was not a heroin addict; her drug of choice was alcohol.
Drugs were not her thing. That's why I'm just baffled by this thing,"
she said.

Huft-James had been sober for seven years, and then she met James at
an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, Moreno said.

Though Moreno recognized the all-too-familiar signs of heroin use in
Huft-James, her sister denied it and made excuses for her new husband.

Heroin is also not just a local problem. A 1998 National Household
Survey on Drug Abuse determined that at least 2.4 million people in
the country had used heroin at some point. Of those, nearly 130,000
had used it within the month before the survey.

San Joaquin County has 1,600 spaces for those who decide to kick the
habit by going on methadone, a prescription drug that counteracts
heroin. The spaces are nearly always filled, Feicht said.

Mexican tar has helped make the drug plentiful and

"They've lowered the price and increased the quality to the point
where the users just love it," Thompson said.

Breaking the addiction of heroin is not easy, and it's the one drug
babies physically cannot withdraw from, said Melanie Newman, who has
overseen the child program at Family Ties in Stockton since 1990.

The county-run organization reaches out to women and children
suffering from addiction, and it gives them a chance to start over.

Once an addict decides to conquer the habit, there are some obstacles.
Many addicts have criminal records, so it is harder to find a new job.
And, many of them are still struggling with the side affects left
behind by heroin use. Added to these struggles is the fact that
regularly using heroin becomes a pattern, a daily habit and a lifestyle.

For Moreno, discarding heroin also meant discarding her old friends -
who she now realizes were never really true friends to begin with -
and moving in with her parents.

Struggling with Hepatitis C and weight loss, both attributed to her
drug use, Moreno is still mourning the death of her sister. Her Lodi
family was permanently affected by heroin.

"It's insanity. People will do anything to get off heroin, and they'll
do anything to stay on it," she said. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake