A 73-year-old Spokane, WA, retiree helped cops bust dealers in his neighborhood who sell it. A teenaged Dallas, TX, high school student turned in her classmates for using it. An 80-year-old Fort Worth, TX, man was arrested alcohol rehab for peddling it. A 38-year-old Bethlehem, PA, woman was arrested in a sting operation for possessing a half a pound of it. And a 16-year-old Nevada youth was still in a coma two weeks after overdosing on it. The “it” is Mexican black tar heroin, and it’s leaving a trail across the country of severe heroin addiction and thousands more people who will need successful drug rehab programs to mend their lives.
The news items above are a random sampling of just this week’s news about the spread of black tar heroin across the country. The most prevalent form of heroin in the western U.S., black tar heroin is named for its appearance – a dark brown or black tar-like substance, lacking one or more of the final steps producers take to refine the source opium to a lighter, powdered form. In the east, the white (actually off-white or tan) powdered heroin, mostly made in South America or Asia, is more commonly seen.
Texas has been particularly hard hit because of its proximity to Mexico, the source of most black tar heroin. The drug is beginning to rival cocaine, the state’s most-abused dangerous drug. Texas drug rehab workers and emergency room physicians have seen black tar heroin addiction among kids as young as 12 years old – school children who, according to police, are attracted to the drug world by young, aggressive drug peddlers who offer the first few “hits” to kids for free. Dozens of kids have already died in Texas from the form of black tar heroin nick-named “cheese” – a blend of black tar heroin and crushed Tylenol PM or similar cold medicine.
The color and texture of black tar heroin doesn’t affect its addictive and destructive nature. In fact, black tar heroin addiction carries even more risks than the more traditional powdered heroin addiction. Because of its gummy consistency, the drug carries a higher risk of “venous sclerosis”, a condition where veins narrow and harden. Another risk seen at hospital emergency rooms and drug rehab clinics, called “necrotizing fasciitis”, is rapid muscle death, leading to blood poisoning and kidney failure. This deadly condition has a mortality rate of almost 100% if left untreated.
Botulism infections at the site of heroin injections are another risk, and have also been seen at ER’s and drug rehab centers. Botulism infection can result in muscle paralysis, respiratory failure and death if treatment is not undertaken immediately. These and other deadly risks emphasize the need for successful drug rehab programs as soon as possible.