• 59°

Heroin: A Deadly Epidemic — What Investigators Say

By Shavonne Walker

shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

Within the past several years, area law enforcement officials say heroin has been the go-to drug in Rowan County. There has been an upward trend in use of the highly addictive drug merely because it is accessible, an alternative to prescription painkillers and is cheaper.

In less than five years, the number of heroin-related deaths in North Carolina increased by 382 percent from 2010 to 2013, which are the most available statistics.

About 20 years ago, heroin was in High Point and other areas of North Carolina, while what had been seen in Rowan County at that time was cocaine and methamphetamine. However, within the past six to seven years, the drug has reached epidemic proportions in Rowan County, investigators say.

This summer alone there have been a number of incidents involving the drug in this area. Rowan County investigators discovered more than a pound of heroin inside underground piping and stashed in a South Jackson Street home in mid-July. The heroin was hidden inside PVC pipe along with coffee grounds designed to mask the odor.

An Iredell County pair were charged in June with a major heroin operation in southwest Rowan and the Mooresville area. One of those charged in that incident drove to Charlotte numerous times to pick up large amounts of heroin from Mexican national suppliers, investigators said.

Origins

The drug originates from Mexico, local officials say, but heroin makes its way to Rowan County by way of Atlanta, New York and Charlotte. None of the product is processed here, investigators say.By the time it hits the Rowan County line, it’s ready for sale.

What investigators are seeing for sale in this area is black tar heroin, which is the most commonly used type in this state.

Black tar heroin, a sticky substance, typically transported in balloons or plastic bags, like the other forms of heroin can be melted along with water and “cooked” on a spoon using an open flame. Users inject the melted liquid intravenously, resulting in an immediate high.

Heroin Users

The majority of users are middle class, white people, said Sgt. Black, a Rowan County Sheriff’s detective. Of those users, Black said teens and women often start by using pills, usually an opiate derivative that can include oxycodone or hydrocodone.

Some users are over-prescribed pain medications by doctors, become addicted to pills and eventually move onto heroin, Black said.

The effects of prescription pills on the brain and body are the same for heroin.

“People have a misconception because they are pharmaceutical made and prescribed by a doctor,” Black said.

He said most heroin users switch to the drug because it’s simply cheaper and plentiful. Years ago you could only obtain a 10th of a gram, but now the drug is sold in grams or bindles and is “everywhere.”

One gram of heroin has an estimated cost of $100 to $125, Black said.

Pills aren’t the only drug that has led to heroin, Black said. Some users, while high on marijuana, decide to “try” heroin.

Detective Morgan, with the Salisbury Police Department, said reformulations of prescription pills have led those with pill addictions to switch to heroin. The pills can no longer be snorted or injected, he said, because some turn to a jelly-like substance.

Morgan said users have also began mixing fentanyl, a narcotic pain reliever, and heroin with deadly results.

The number of overdose deaths from heroin laced with fentanyl even prompted the Drug Enforcement Administration to issue a nationwide alert. Fentanyl is 100 times more powerful than morphine, authorities say.

Heroin is a semi-synthetic substance that is made from morphine.

Detectives say drug dealers who used to sell other drugs — marijuana, cocaine and pills — are now selling heroin.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

Comments

Local

BlockWork returns for 10th year of beautification

Local

Big Chili Cook Off changes format, sells 250 tickets

Lifestyle

Kiwanis Club names five recipients of Centennial Awards

Lifestyle

Rowan County bridge dedicated to local police officer who made ultimate sacrifice

Local

Camp Barnhardt to host drive-in movie, trick-or-treat

News

Dental deserts: Lack of adequate oral health care across North Carolina

Business

Spicing things up: Mise En Place food truck finds success serving Indian fare

Lifestyle

Church foundation distributes record amount of money

Business

Biz Roundup: ‘Forward Rowan’ continues to draw support, raise money

Education

School board set to vote on Faith, Enochville closures Monday

Health

Local health officials worry pandemic will cause long-term effects for children’s health

Local

Ordinance change needed to address night train noise in Salisbury

Elections

Election 2020: Heggins, Warren talk racial injustice, economy

News

Cunningham keeps low in NC Senate race marked by his affair

BREAKING NEWS

Two bodies found in home on Lincolnton Road

Crime

Man arrested in Kannapolis plotted to kill Biden, found with guns, explosive material, court documents state

Local

Flagger clipped by vehicle, taken to hospital with minor injuries

Coronavirus

County finishes week with five deaths, one of 36 to receive letter from state health officials

Business

Salisbury Newsmedia reaches agreement to sell Innes Street building; Post to remain tenant

Crime

Blotter: Teens attempt to break into Gerry Wood Auto Group

Crime

Man faces arson charges for Kannapolis camper fire

Business

New tenant hopes to lease former K&W Cafeteria building

Nation/World

Trump, Biden go after each other on coronavirus, taxes

Coronavirus

County adds three more COVID-19 deaths to total