Pubdate: Sat, 22 Sep 2007
Source: Ft. Worth Star-Telegram (TX)
Copyright: 2007 Star-Telegram Operating, Ltd.
Authors: Paul Bourgeois And Shirley Jinkins
Bookmark: (Heroin)


ARLINGTON -- Two men are dead, and drug-prevention experts are 
warning that a toxic mix of heroin and over-the-counter medicine has 
arrived in Tarrant County.

The Tarrant County medical examiner's office has ruled that the July 
7 death of 26-year-old Pedro Duque in Fort Worth and the July 31 
death of James David Burnette, a 17-year-old who had attended Martin 
and Venture high schools in Arlington, were caused by "cheese," a mix 
of heroin and diphenhydramine, which is found in common allergy 
medicines and pain relievers.

"Unfortunately, it was just a matter of time before it hit us," said 
Judith Arispe, an Arlington school district intervention specialist 
with the Safe & Drug-Free Schools program. She was among 300 
educators, narcotics-abuse experts and law enforcement officials who 
gathered Thursday at Tarrant County College South Campus to discuss 
how to combat the substance.

Cheese had previously been implicated in at least 26 area deaths: 24 
in Dallas County and one each in Collin and Rockwall counties.

Burnette died at home in front of his computer, four days before his 
18th birthday. The medical examiner ruled his death accidental but 
determined that he had taken a combination of heroin and diphenhydramine.

The drug mix produces euphoria and a mild hallucinogenic effect, but 
the chemicals can also restrict respiration and cause death.

Burnette's family did not return calls seeking comment Friday. 
Arlington police said the family did not wish to speak publicly about 
the death.

An Arlington police news release said investigators had not found 
evidence of cheese during drug raids or arrests, but they will 
continue to monitor the situation.

The Tarrant County medical examiner's office is reviewing other cases 
to determine whether they are cheese-related, spokeswoman Linda Anderson said.

Officials with Tarrant County Challenge Inc., a 23-year-old agency 
that tracks alcohol and substance abuse, believe the July deaths are 
the first attributed to cheese in the county.

"We anticipated it hitting us this school year," said John Haenes, 
Tarrant County Challenge chief operating officer. The agency 
organized Thursday's conference on the drug.

Drug history

Cheese first surfaced in Dallas in August 2006 and quickly spread 
through the school district, said Jeremy Liebbe of the Dallas school 
district's police department.

In Dallas, cheese is most popular among teens in grades seven through 
nine, though the district has found some users as young as 10, Liebbe said.

The drug is cheap and easy to make, experts said.

Black-tar heroin is routinely transported up Interstate 35 from 
Mexico and sold on the streets of Dallas, Haenes said.

Mixing it with generic over-the-counter medications cuts the price.

Cheese requires no cooking or needles. Users typically snort it. 
Haenes said a hit costs about $2 in Dallas.

"The problem is many of the kids think cheese is harmless," Haenes said.

Cheese is the "drug of choice" for Hispanic males, Haenes said, and 
62 percent of users are Hispanic.

About 38 percent are Anglo, he said.

"It could just be that the trend is so new that it hasn't spread to 
other races," Haenes said.

Arispe said Arlington's Safe & Drug-Free Schools program has been 
conducting intervention programs on the danger of cheese since spring 2006.

"We emphasize to them that it's heroin," Arispe said. "A lot of kids 
that end up in treatment may have to go through the program two or 
three times to wean themselves off of the drug, it's so powerful."

Young users report that they didn't perceive the drug as dangerous at 
first because it is snorted, not injected, Arispe said.

"Here's the part that really upsets me: the giddy, silly way little 
kids refer to 'cheese,'" said Tony Arangio, director of Arlington's 
Safe & Drug-Free Schools program. "In media reports, the first word 
is always cheese, not heroin. That's the dastardly part of that."

Staff writer Alex Branch contributed to this report.

[sidebar] ---

'Cheese' heroin

Tarrant County has had its first two confirmed deaths by "cheese," a 
cheap drug made by combining heroin with over-the-counter allergy or 
headache medications such as Benadryl or Tylenol PM.

Also known as: Chees, Cheez, Chez, Chz, Queso, Keso, Ksoh


Brief but intense euphoria

Alternate states of restlessness and lethargy


Constricted pupils

Slowed breathing

Irregular heartbeat

Changes in appetite

Behavioral warning signs:

Loss of enthusiasm and signs of depression

Withdrawal from normal activities

Truancy and unexplained drop in grades

Irritability and overreaction to criticism

Unusual requests for money

Decreased interest in appearance

Unexplained changes in friends

Frequent nasal or sinus infections

Source: Tarrant County Challenge

Senate bill

The U.S. Senate passed a bill Friday that would add "cheese" heroin 
to the list of illegal drugs targeted by National Youth Anti-Drug 
Media Campaign. The public awareness program is carried out by the 
Office of National Drug Control Policy in the White House and aims to 
prevent drug abuse among young people. Current law directs the 
campaign to target marijuana and methamphetamines.
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