A liquefied version of black tar heroin is gaining ground on marijuana and prescription drugs as the drug of choice for teens in North County suburbs, Friendswood police said.
The teens might not even realize they are using heroin because of the way it’s being marketed by dealers, Lt. Josh Rogers said.
In some cases, teens charged with possession of liquefied heroin, which is dark brown and typically carried in eyedropper vials, knew it only as “Liquid O,” Rogers said.
The “O” stands for opium, the main ingredient in heroin. The mixed drug police are battling comes in various forms.
In 2009, heroin possession accounted for 15 percent of the city’s drug arrests compared to 45 percent for marijuana possession and 24 percent for prescription drugs, Rogers said.
“In 2006 and 2007, liquid heroin was not on our radar,” Rogers said.
Friendswood police made only two heroin-related arrests in 2006 and 2007, Rogers said. But police didn’t realize liquefied heroin was being sold and distributed in the city until they made three arrests in early fall 2008, Rogers said.
“It might have been here earlier, but we didn’t know.”
In 2009, Friendswood police made 30 liquefied heroin-related arrests, Rogers said.
Rogers heads the Friendswood Police Department’s Field Support Unit, which is charged with investigating and suppressing the influx of liquefied heroin in the city.
Liquid O is black tar heroin that has been heated and mixed with warm water and put in half- to one-ounce eyedropper vials that are hard to detect because of their size and ubiquity, Rogers said.
“We’ve found liquid heroin in Visine bottles.”
Dealers also are marketing liquefied heroin against the stereotype of the emaciated heroin user with track-marked arms. Rogers said.
“It’s neater and cleaner than what the typical junkie in the alley is injecting.”
Liquefied heroin is inhaled through the nose rather than injected in a vein and goes for $5 to $10 a drop. One gram of black tar heroin that sells for $400 to $500 can yield up to 90 dosages of liquefied heroin, Friendswood Police Chief Bob Wieners said.
“You do the math,” Wieners said. “It’s purely profit driven.”
Typically, Friendswood police will charge a person with a second degree felony with intent to distribute if they are found in possession of half-ounce or single ounce of liquefied heroin.
A person convicted of a second degree felony can be sentenced to prison for two to 20 years and be fined as much as $10,000, according to the state penal code.
Wieners and Rogers both said the heroin comes from Mexico, South America or Afghanistan and is being distributed from southeast Houston into North Galveston County.
Why North Galveston County?
“We believe the Clear Lake area is being targeted because of its affluence,” Wieners said.
Police also have found a connection between users of liquefied heroin and prescription drug abuse. Users addicted to opiate-based drugs such as Hydrocodone and OxyContin have turned to liquefied heroin because it is getting more difficult to obtain prescriptions for the drugs.
And the liquefied black tar heroin is somewhat analogous to crack cocaine, in that even though it’s relatively expensive, the price for single doses is within reach, Rogers said.
On Thursday, Rogers will give a presentation to the leaders of the Friendswood Alliance for Youth and Families, which is a group of parents and community leaders created by the Friendswood school district to address the increased prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse among youth.
The presentation will detail how liquefied heroin came into Friendswood and inform the group how it can help Friendswood police with its enforcement efforts.
The alliance plans on scheduling larger meetings for the Friendswood community.
“We’re here to facilitate awareness about this problem,” Lynn Shigekawa a spokeswoman for the alliance, said. “People can’t conceive that heroin is now in liquid form.”
By Karn Dhingra
February 21, 2010
Galveston Daily News