06/29/14 — Heroin: It all starts with the pills in a medicine chest

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Heroin: It all starts with the pills in a medicine chest

By John Joyce
Published in News on June 29, 2014 4:08 PM

It starts with a pill from a medicine cabinet or a prescription drug purchased from a dealer on the street.

As the addiction takes hold, and the high is harder to cultivate, it doesn’t take much to move to the next step, the cheaper option — heroin.

Undercover drug officers with the Goldsboro/Wayne County Interagency Drug Task Force have seen it many times — and not just in the housing projects or crime-prone areas.

Heroin is in affluent neighborhoods and the county schools, too, they say.

Middle class students can get hooked. Adults can become addicts. Heroin addiction destroys families and futures.

And the problem of heroin in Wayne County is getting worse, the experts say.

Heroin crosses all social lines or geographical boundaries.

Members of the county’s drug task force spoke recently about the growing opiate problem facing Wayne County and the region. Their names have been withheld to protect their identities and to maintain the integrity of any ongoing investigations.

And there are many such investigations, they say, right now in this county.

“The heroin problem that is here, that is getting worse, is because of prescription pills. Kids are getting hooked on opiate-based pills like morphine pills, methadone pills,” one senior officer said.

Drug purchases and arrests have been recorded in all sections of the county and city — from each of the seven government housing projects to the more affluent communities, the officers said.

Officer 2 explained that students network on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

While they don’t speak openly about their drug use, they connect with others who are involved in the same behavior, he said.

“They think its legal. They think because these are prescription pills, they aren’t doing anything illegal.”

Many of their parents have no idea of the roulette wheel they are spinning. And the teens have no idea of the risk they are taking.

Officer 2 said the young people work to maintain an image of, “I’m a good kid. I’m not a drug addict. I just take prescription pills.”

Wayne County Public Schools Executive Administrative Director and Hearing Officer Allison Pridgen did not verify or refute the statement that there are ongoing investigations in the county schools. But, she added, she is not aware of any.

“I am certainly someone who would be made aware,” Mrs. Pridgen said.

However, she added that often because of the nature of the investigations, she does not hear about them until arrests are made.

“We’ve got some investigations going on into some stuff going on at schools, but we’ll leave it at that,” Officer 1 said.

The danger is real, Officer 2 cautioned.

“When you start out thinking its harmless, taking a pill at a party, but a year or two later its not doing enough for them anymore they start seeking out heroin.”

It doesn’t take much for an addiction to take hold — or to make the switch to heroin.

And then the addicts — no matter what their age — will do anything to get the pills.

“It starts out with taking pills from the medicine cabinets, but if you notice the amount of robberies and break-ins at pharmacies — it’s spiked,” Officer 2 said.

Addicts will break into a pharmacy — and the only thing they want is Oxycontin, a potent prescription pain killer, he said.

“They’ll walk right past the register and go to the back to the prescription counter,” he said.

As the drug abuse advances, the addict’s tolerance for the pills’ dosage increases, forcing him or her to need more and more to get the same high. As that addiction escalates, so, too, does the cost of the pills, commonly priced by the gram.

Pill prices range from just a few dollars to $10 to $20. The higher the gram weight, the more valuable the pill.

“An 80-gram pill can cost up to $80,” Officer 2 said.

That’s when the addict looks for a more affordable option.

Brown heroin is that next rung on the addiction ladder.

“It’s cheaper and more readily available. It takes the place of the pill high,” Officer 2 said.

A bag of heroin can cost as little as $5 or $10. The bags that are sold individually are called “bindles.” Ten bindles equal a bundle.

“The users start off taking pills, then progress to chopping the pills up and snorting them like cocaine. They wind up shooting heroin,” Officer 2 said.

The community of heroin addicts is broad, but selective.

Once a person has fallen in with others who abuse drugs, they get introduced to different kinds of drugs and drug dealers, the officers said.

Officer 1 and Officer 2 say that on any given day, heroin is being sold just about anywhere in the city or county.

“A dealer will meet you at KFC today, Burger King tomorrow, Walmart, the parking lot of the Wayne County Courthouse, or out in the county. It changes every phone call,” Officer 1 said.

There are people in Goldsboro shooting 8 to 10 bags of heroin a day, according to the task force.

Once hooked, an addict gets violently ill if he or she is unable to find and use heroin, Officer 2 said.

And that is where the booming business of dealing and the vicious circle that is addiction enter the picture.

The increasing local demand for the drug is being met by an ever-increasing supply.

“There are organizations that keep it here, there are others that keep it in other counties and sell it here, there are those that are just passing through,” Officer 2 said.

Proximity to interstates is a key factor in setting up drug operations.

Officer 1 and Officer 2 say, locally, areas with smaller police departments and closer access to highways are sought out by cartels because they are ideal distribution centers.

“Mexican cartels, straight from Mexico. You won’t necessarily have a kingpin here, but you’ve got the organizations that are based in Mexico, and now in the U.S. — Atlanta, Arizona, Chicago — that are the main distribution hubs for cocaine, marijuana and even (brown powder and black tar) heroin,” Officer 2 said.

For example, a lot of the cocaine in North Carolina comes from Atlanta, he said.

“And the person that is in Atlanta, who is in charge of that cocaine, will never touch it. He’ll never touch the money. Most likely though he will be in the car behind it when it comes here, and when the money goes back, he is following the money,” Officer 2 said.

The traffickers will sometimes travel a day or two ahead of the drugs to set up the operation..

“They’ll have no dope on them, but they are here to oversee the shipment without touching it.”

The drug squad said when a high school student goes out and buys a bag of marijuana, while it is not a cartel member he is buying it from, the drug has not changed hands fifty times either.

“By the time it gets from Atlanta to here, it’s gone through the hands of maybe two or three people before it gets in the hands of a teenager,” Officer 2 said.

Stopping the drug flow starts with the community, Wayne County Sheriff Larry Pierce says.

“Prescription pills are a pathway to heroin, and we are seeing an increase,” he said.

“It is our intention to shut down any major suppliers of heroin, or any drug for that matter, coming into Wayne county,” Pierce said.

The officers in the county Drug Squad hope the community will keep an eye out for suspicious activity.

Officer 2 said citizens who see anything out of the ordinary should take notice, but not intervene.

And it does not matter how big or small the bit of information is, Officer 1 said.

“Call us, let us know, and let us determine if it there is anything to it or not. ” he said.

Pierce agreed, saying the slightest detail could be what blows an operation wide open and closes down a drug supply chain.

“We live off of information,” he said.