Pubdate: Mon, 16 Aug 2010
Source: Burlington Times-News (NC)
Copyright: 2010 Freedom Communications, Inc.
Author: Roselee Papandrea, Times-News


Heroin use is on the rise in Burlington and authorities are concerned
about its potential impact on the community.

It's not that the drug is available on every street corner in the
city. But it is creeping its way in and investigators in the
Burlington Police Department's special operations division say the
drug's potency is much higher than it was when it was popular among
inner-city junkies injecting it in the 1970s.

The typical user in this area is white, between 20 and 25 years old
and from west Burlington, and pain killers that they find in mom and
dad's medicine cabinet are often the gateway to their heroin
addiction, said a Burlington police undercover drug officer who asked
to remain anonymous because of ongoing investigations.

"They are developing the habit on prescription pain killers," the
undercover officer said. "When they can't get them any more, they move
over to heroin."

Brown powder heroin is also cheaper and it's potent so users no longer
have to inject it, which is a turnoff to a lot of drug users, to get

"The purity has gone up so much," the undercover officer said. "You
can still get a good high by snorting."

Heroin used to be considered a "dirty drug" because the way to get
high was to inject it. Back in the 1970s, heroin was mostly filler and
only about 5 percent pure. The only way to get that euphoric high was
to inject it. The heroin available now is 50 to 80 percent pure, and
users never know exactly what they are getting.

Most of Burlington's heroin users are buying a hit of the drug, which
is a bindle - a small, jewelry-size bag - for about $10 or $15. That's
a lot cheaper than purchasing a prescription pain killer off the
street. They run about $1 a milligram, which means one 60 milligram
tablet of oxycotin could cost as much as $70.

In June, Burlington police charged Jonathan David Lee, 38, of
Lexington Avenue, Burlington with trafficking heroin, possession with
intent to sell and deliver heroin, manufacturing a schedule I
controlled substance, possession with intent to sell and deliver
marijuana and maintaining a vehicle/dwelling for the sale of a
controlled substance. He is in the Alamance County jail under $250,000
bond awaiting trial.

 From what police could tell during a six-month investigation that
started in January, Lee was allegedly a major supplier of heroin to
young people in west Burlington. It's not a drug that dealers just
sell on a street corner.

"If I want to get a rock of cocaine, I can get it within 20 minutes,"
said Burlington police Staff Sgt. B.R. Becmer, who heads the special
operations division. "With heroin it's a different story. You have to
know somebody."

Locking up Lee, who authorities allege is the "heroin man of the
city," did have an impact on the users, the undercover officer said.

"That group of kids aren't able to get it anymore," the officer

But it's just a matter of time before another dealer moves into the

HEROIN IS highly addictive.

"It creates a euphoria," the undercover officer said. "It gives you a
warm fuzzy feeling that lasts a long time, and you don't care what

Users can do a hit at 5 p.m. and then go out or hangout for hours.
When they go to bed at 4 a.m., many still have a buzz. But the
after-effects of the drug are brutal, the undercover officer said.

"They would wake up lying in a ball, vomiting and in pain," the
officer said.

Cocaine is a stimulant, and it's a quick buzz. There are a lot of
recreational cocaine users who might use it on a Saturday night before
going out to a bar.

"It's rare to find a one-time heroin user or a recreational heroin
user," the undercover officer said. "... They want to get it whenever
they can and do it whenever they can do it."

Users who snort it will begin injecting it once they are

"They say, 'I'll do this. I'll snort this, but I'm not going to inject
it. But once they get high and get addicted, all rules go out the
door. When you inject it, it's a better high," the undercover officer

With potency levels that range from 50 percent or higher, users never
know how strong the hit will be, so the potential for overdosing
without realizing it is also higher.

"You don't know what the purity level is," Becmer said. "There is no
way to regulate what you are putting in your body."

Police say that educating the public, especially parents, about heroin
and how the addiction starts is key to stopping the problem before it
gets worse.

"Be part of your children's lives," Becmer said. "Be mindful of
changes and of seclusion."

Police also warn that parents need to be wary about keeping
prescription pain killers in a place where teens have access to them.

"For us, we can clearly show a connection between heroin and
prescription pills," the undercover officer said. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jo-D