harvest of opium from poppy on the fieldWe can’t stop talking about it. Everywhere I turn, it’s heroin, heroin, heroin. Overdose. Deaths. Potent, cheap, and available; heroin. And the surge that is happening as we speak, can be traced back to the remote valleys of the northern Sierra Madre. 


Sierra Madre? Sierra Madre refers to one of many mountain ranges in Mexico, Central America, and the United States. So what does that have to do with anything. 

With the wholesale price of marijuana falling, partially because of the decriminalization of the drug in certain parts of the US, Mexican drug farmers have begun to turn away from cannabis and have started filling their fields with, you guessed it, poppies. Poppies are heroin in its very first, au naturale form. Mexican heroin has been flooding the north as US authorities with perfect timing. The flood of heroin, came right as the prescription drug epidemic came to a screeching halt, following tightened control on synthetic opiates such as Vicodin and OxyContin. As the pills became harder to get and more costly, Mexican drug trafficking organizations have tapped into the new markets for heroin in places such as Winchester, VA., and Brattleboro, VT., where, until recently, needle use for street narcotics was unknown. 

So yeah. The farmers are smart. The famers in the fabled “Golden Triangle,” of Mexico’s Sinaloa state, which has produced some of the countries biggest and most infamous gangsters, as well as their biggest marijuana harvests, say they have stopped growing pot because the price has collapsed in the past 5 years. It has gone from 100 dollars per kilo to less than 25. It just isn’t lucrative anymore, nor is it worth it. 

So as any good business does, they tap into the consciousness of their consumers. Growers are now sowing their plots with opium poppies and large-scale heroin operations are turning up in places were they have never been seen before. 

Let’s go back to January really quick: Police in Honduras found their first poppy farm in the country, raiding a sophisticated mountain greenhouse as big as a soccer field. That same week, soldiers and police in Guatemala came under attack by farmers armed with clubs and gas bombs, as they moved in to destroy 160 acres of poppy.

Along the border with Mexico, US authorities have seized 2,162 kilos of heroin. That is up from 367 kilos in 2007. So as the needle habit in the US makes a comeback, the Mexican farmers are more than happy to tap into a money making machine, known as your heroin addiction. 

Although prescription painkillers remain more widely abused and account for far more fatal overdoses, heroin has been “moving all over the country and popping up in areas you didn’t see before,” said Carl Pike, a senior official in the Special Operations Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration. With its low price and easy portability, heroin has reached beyond New York, Chicago and other places where it has long been available. Rural areas of New England, Appalachia and the Midwest are being hit especially hard, with cities such as Portland, Maine; St. Louis;and Oklahoma City struggling to cope with a new generation of addicts. Pike and other DEA officials say the spread is the result of a shrewd marketing strategy developed by Mexican traffickers. They have targeted areas with the worst prescription pill abuse, sending heroin pushers to “set up right outside the methadone clinics,” one DEA agent said.

But can you blame them?

While Columbia is historically known as being the biggest source of heroin, Mexican output has surpassed it recently. Together the two, account for 90% of the heroin in the United States. As seizures of cocaine and marijuana along the border have fallen over the past several years, flows of methamphetamine and heroin have soared, federal statistics show.Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel continues to be the biggest provider of heroin to the United States, controlling as much as half of the North American market. Sinaloa boss Joaquín “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzmán grew up here in the mountains outside the municipal seat of Badiraguato, and his organization remains the dominant criminal power along the western border and west coast of Mexico.

This area though, all it knows is how to grow potent drug making plants. The entire region is a giant drug farm and has been for decades. “There’s no other way to make a living here,” said Silla, who has brought up his sons in the business, as his father did before him. Feeling confident after several years of good harvests, Silla and other families here planted more poppies than ever this year, but their radiant purple, red and white flowers were spotted by aerial surveillance last month. Mexican soldiers in pickups came roaring up the creek bed soon after and tore out the crop, chopping up irrigation hoses and searching homes for guns and cash.

A kilo of the raw, sticky opium sap that is used to make heroin sells wholesale for $1,500 in the northern Sierra Madre, nearly double its 2012 price, according to growers. With fertilizer and favorable weather, a well-tended poppy field can yield eight kilos of sap per acre, nearly enough to make a kilo of raw heroin. It’s a much better cut than the whole marijuana game. 

The increased demand for heroin in the United States appears to be keeping wholesale prices high, even with abundant supply. The Mexican mountain folk in hamlets such as this one do not think of themselves as drug producers. They also plant corn, beans and other subsistence crops but say they could never earn a living from their small food plots. And they just can’t compete with the American marijuana growers. And with more and more of the American marijuana market being flooded with potent and cheaper pot, Mexican trafficking groups have reorganized. 

When a product starts losing value, you diversify. It’s true of any farmer as well as business man. And that’s how they see it. 

If anything, it just goes to show that the legalization of a drug can help to curb cartel and gang involvement. The War on Drugs, may finally be moving closer to a solution. If only we could slow down the heroin. 

There Were Signs That Heroin Would Become A Problem Again

heroinFrom the beginning, the U.S. government’s decade-long crackdown on abuse of prescription drugs has run an unsettling risk: that arresting doctors and shuttering “pill mills” would inadvertently fuel a new epidemic of heroin use. Officers from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Major Crimes Health Authority Law Enforcement Task Force question suspects during a raid on fake health clinics illegally dispensing medical prescriptions for OxyContin and other drugs in 2012.

State and federal officials have pressed their campaign against prescription-drug abuse with urgency, trying to contain a scourge that kills more than 16,000 people each year. The crackdown has helped reduce the illegal use of some medications and raised awareness of their dangers.

But at the same time that some pain medications have become less available on the street and pricier, many users have switched to cheaper heroin, since prescription pills and heroin are in the same class of drugs and provide a comparable euphoric high.

As we all know the heroin problem has been gaining speed. After Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death from heroin and other drugs, the experts are saying that the government’s actions have contributed to the growing heroin problem. The war on drugs, the experts say, is a conflict where targeting one illicit substance an be an unintentional boom into another. And if the war on drugs understood addiction they would of probably seen this coming. When you take a substance away from an addict, they don’t stop using, they just switch substances. They will always find a way to get high. 

“Absolutely, much of the heroin use you’re seeing now is due in large part to making prescription opioids a lot less accessible,” said Theodore Cicero, a psychiatry professor at Washington University in St. Louis. He co-authored a 2012 study, cited in the New England Journal of Medicine, that found that a reformulation of OxyContin to make it harder to abuse caused heroin use to nearly double.

Although policymakers “did the best they could at the time” in fighting prescription drugs, Cicero said, “there were signs years ago that this was going to happen, and there was just a lot of inaction.” He said the government could have acted sooner to mitigate heroin’s toll, such as by promoting the use of medicines to fight overdoses and ease withdrawal symptoms.

This doesn’t mean that targeting prescription drugs was necessarily a bad thing but the unawareness and shock of what is going on now, is unwarranted. Everyone should of seen it coming. 

In fact, the government kind of did. The government itself predicted that targeting prescription drugs could give heroin use an unintended lift.The Justice Department’s drug intelligence arm in 2002 highlighted the potential consequences: “As initiatives taken to curb the abuse of OxyContin are successfully implemented, abusers of OxyContin . . . also may begin to use heroin, especially if it is readily available, pure, and relatively inexpensive.”

But yet, those projections didn’t take factor in the discussions by top drug policy officials even after numerous government reports and congressional testimony indicated that the shift in heroin was happening, according to current and formal officials. 

So heroin use began its rise at around the end of the Bush administration has surged in the Obama years. 

Between 2007 and 2012, heroin use rose 79 percent nationwide, according to federal data. Within the same period, the data show, 81 percent of first-time heroin users had previously abused prescription drugs.

The Heroin Network: Is Your Town the Addict, The Dealer or The Middle Man?

heroinVermont police have reported that there has been an increase of heroin into the state. But where is the heroin coming from? 

Police say the drugs are probably from urban areas such as New York, Philly, Lowell and Holyoke, Mass., Albany, and even Chicago and Detroit. Why? Because a bag of heroin that sells for 5 dollars in a big  city can snag as much as 30 dollars in the streets of Rutland. 

Dec. 8th, 2012 a suspected dealer led authorities straight to his source. Using a warrant, Burlington police and federal drug enforcement agents traced the movements of Videsh Raghoonanan by tracking his cellphoine in real time. For six hours they watched the signal travel from Burlington down interstates 89, 91, and 95 to New York City.

The signal eventually stopped at 1am near Ozone Park, Queens, a middle class neighborhood best known for its horse racing track. 16 hours later the cellphone started moving north again, tracing the same route back-until it arrived in Burlington shortly before midnight. 

When Raghoonanan exited the highway onto Shelburne Road police we already waiting in a surveillance car. He drove to an apartment on South Union Street, where authorities say the dealer had set up shop. AS they got out of the vehicle, Raghoonanan and a companion were taken into custody and searched. 

According to court records, the cops found a 30 gram bag of cocaine concealed in Raghoonanan’s buttocks and 90 bags of heroin in the pants pocket of his accomplice. 

Raghoonanan was identified by a customer who cooperated with federal authorities in the hope of reducing his own sentence on drug charges. And Raghoonanan, in turn, allegedly identified his supplier as a NYC man known as “Black.”

U.S. Attorney Tristram Coffin has prosecuted dozens of individuals for heroin trafficking in the past 18 months, mostly using secretive grand jury proceedings. His office is building complex cases — many of which rely on confidential informants with ties to suspected drug suppliers.

Brooklyn has emerged as an epicenter of Vermont-bound heroin, and one neighborhood in particular appears to be a source point. In February, federal prosecutors in New York unsealed an indictment charging six defendants in a drug ring from the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn with trafficking narcotics. One of them was arrested in Vermont. Court records accused the suspects of making daily runs with large quantities of narcotics to upstate New York and Vermont.

In March, state police stopped a Cadillac on I-89 in Williamstown that was allegedly returning from Brooklyn with 2600 bags of heroin in the trunk. Authorities have also seized large quantities of heroin in recent months from out-of-state passengers traveling on the Megabus and in taxicabs.

“There are supply networks familiar with Vermont down there,” Coffin acknowledges. But heroin is arriving from Chicago, Boston and other big cities, too.

heroinIn fact, some of the most potent — and deadly — heroin in Vermont appears to have originated in the Windy City. Beginning in the fall of 2011, the Burlington police narcotics unit began investigating a group of individuals from Chicago allegedly trafficking heroin in Chittenden County. The heroin — known as “Chi town” or “Chi town dope” — was blamed for several overdoses, including at least one that resulted in death.

Turns out, Chi town dope also had ties to drug suppliers in Lowell, Mass. On April 10, law enforcement officers in Lowell staked out the home of a person suspected of trafficking the potent heroin to Vermont. Police allegedly watched Chandara “Po” Sam leave his apartment and drive away in a gray Honda, and then trailed him to the Vermont border, where Vermont police took over the surveillance.

According to police, investigators followed Sam to a McDonald’s in White River Junction, where they had prearranged a controlled buy with an undercover informant who allegedly gave Sam $5000 for a large package of heroin. Police arrested Sam after the handoff. When the cops back in Lowell executed a search warrant on the building where Sam had been spotted, they allegedly found 30 grams of heroin, digital scales, more than $40,000 in cash and a handgun.

Burlington Police Chief Michael Schirling says Chi town is just one of several heroin varieties available on the streets. Each batch comes with its own “stamp” on the packaging, the chief explains, and different groups bring in different supplies.

So far, gangs don’t appear to be battling for turf in Vermont, according to Birmingham, the drug task force commander, who notes that there’s no sign of organized gangs such as Bloods or Crips. But he admits he can’t be sure because “people don’t wear gang numbers.” Sometimes, he notes, people will pretend they’re in a gang to build their “intimidation factor.”

“People will come into a smaller community in Vermont and want to portray themselves as tough,” Birmingham says.

Schirling has a different view on gangs. He says Burlington police have arrested suspects that have affiliations with inner-city gangs. Asked to elaborate, the chief says, “Can’t talk about that.”

At least one alleged trafficker appeared to be worried about a rival’s heroin cutting into his market. Burlington police arrested Michael Vasquez, aka “Macho,” last fall for allegedly selling heroin to an undercover police informant, and he is alleged to be the head of an organization that trafficked two ounces per week from New York into the Burlington area.

In his affidavit of probable cause, Burlington Detective Sgt. Matthew Sullivan wrote that when he asked Vasquez about a competing distribution group infringing on his franchise, Vasquez replied, “Maybe they’re making it hard for me to eat or me to make money if I was selling drugs or maybe like you said they getting in the way or whatever…”

Baker of Rutland cautions that it’s simplistic to blame the heroin surge solely on outsiders. One of the biggest busts in his area implicated a Vermonter. On April 24, federal prosecutors charged Alan H. Willis II of Tinmouth with heroin trafficking, alleging he had been purchasing and selling 1200 bags a week since last June — or as much as 38,400 bags of heroin over the past 10 months.

Similarly, federal agents arrested Addison County native Justin Billings last summer as he allegedly attempted to sell 399 bags of heroin in Hampton, N.Y. When agents later searched his residence, they allegedly seized 6073 bags of heroin, $90,000 in cash, 10 firearms, ammunition and a 2003 Ford Explorer with an electronically controlled hiding compartment.

Dispelling the urban legend that Amtrak is the conduit for Rutland’s heroin supply, Baker says he’s unaware of a single shipment that has arrived via passenger train since he took over as police chief in January 2012.

“It would be easy to blame New York City,” Baker says, “but it’s much more complicated than that.”

The Ugly Truth: Why Everyone is Dying From Heroin (Hint: It’s Not Because of Fentanyl)

heroin overdoseIt’s an ugly truth.

Give an addict heroin and there is a chance they will die. Not because of fentanyl. But because they are an addict that is doing heroin.

Just an update, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s bag of dope didn’t have fentanyl in it. It wasn’t even too much. He was just an addict on a day that ended with the letter ‘y’. That is why he died.

37 deaths in Maryland. An abnormally large amount of deaths in Pittsburgh. Deaths in South Florida. People dying all the time from “drug overdose.” And it all has been chalked up to heroin, not just heroin though, heroin cut with fentanyl. A special potent mixture that leads to overdose and death.

We have heard so much about heroin cut with fentanyl, not only is it kind of getting obnoxious, but we all seem to have forgotten that heroin in and of itself is kind of problem. Hello!!

Forget the shit labeled Theraflu. Forget the marked baggies. Forget the relapse and tolerance crap. Just in case anyone has forgotten, heroin, all by its pretty little china white, beige or brown self, can cause you to draw in and out your last breaths on this awesome planet. All it has to be is that extra .1 or .2 (or maybe you ball hard and do a whole extra 1.0) and that does the trick.

Or maybe, just maybe, here is the kicker; It doesn’t even have to be extra at all, it could just be the next shot for no reason other than the fact that you are doing heroin. YOU ARE DOING HEROIN! And quite possibly can’t stop even if you want to. People die all the time from just good ‘ol heroin in its regular uncut form, merely because they were doing a drug that can potentially kill you. You just don’t hear about it because its usually some average guy or girl, not a celebrity, who dies alone, without 36 other deaths to make their passing newsworthy. 

Heroin, in and of itself, without being too much, without needing fentanyl, without a low tolerance, IS DANGEROUS. Heroin is going to keep killing people as long as there are people doing heroin. No one has to overdose and do too much, they just have to use the stuff. This is the truth, especially for addicts. Anyone, absolutely anyone, who is using heroin runs the risk of dying, regardless of tolerance, regardless of what it is or isn’t cut with, and regardless of how experienced they are. People die because they are addicted to a drug and the risk of dying from it is there every time they decide they want to feel better, numb out, get high, whatever. The thought of death either never enters their mind, is immediately pushed out by the desire to get high, or is ignored with an invincibility idea that you get when you haven’t overdosed yet (“It can’t happen to me.”) Maybe the idea that they could die does enter their mind, but it means nothing when you are an addict. The facts are, that death from heroin can happen just because you’re a human being that did heroin. Forget the overdose part of it all together. 

But how? 

Heroin is a potent opiate analgesic. And the disease of addiction is one that will fuck you until you’re in your grave, jail, or have decided to change your life and get sober (and even then there needs to be constant progress.) Put that combo together and you don’t need the term overdose. You might not even need the term addiction in all reality. All you really need, to die, is heroin.

Heroin not only blocks your brain from being able to register pain, it also suppresses things like your breathing while slowing your heart rate. It is a depressant. Think slow, think sloth, think sleepy. That is what heroin does. It numbs you out and slows you down, get a little too slow, and you might just stop. The heart can slowly stop beating. The lungs can slowly stop inflating and deflating. It is really simple. And it doesn’t have to be a cocktail of crap mixed with heroin to cause it. Heroin does this by itself, even in small amounts. Every time an addict uses heroin this is what happens, and the next time they decide they want to get high, could be the time their body decides to stop instead of keep on keeping on. There doesn’t need to be a bigger reason or explanation behind it. Heroin is dangerous. Every. Single. Time. You do it. Just because it’s heroin. People are NOT going to stop dying. Because people are still using heroin. And the majority of people are still using heroin because their addiction tells them need to. That my friend, is the ugly truth.