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SPECIAL REPORT: As heroin makes its way into rural areas, impact hits close to home

  1. Balzafire
    Like a cancer, heroin use is spreading throughout the state at an alarming rate.

    The incidence of heroin cases is no longer just the scourge of larger, metropolitan areas like Milwaukee and Madison; heroin has started to hit home in smaller communities, a state official says.

    "The rural areas of Wisconsin are experiencing the destructive power of this drug in a way that defies the traditional understanding of drug use," said state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.

    In the last five years, heroin use in Wisconsin has jumped nearly 400 percent — a deeply troubling trend, Van Hollen said.

    Just a few years ago, heroin cases in Fond du Lac and Dodge counties were few and far between.

    But in the last 18 months, that has changed. In 2009, Dodge County recorded three overdose deaths attributed to heroin use. In September, a 22-year-old Fond du Lac man was found dead in his apartment, apparently the victim of a heroin overdose.

    "Obviously, what we're seeing is just the tip of the iceberg," said Dodge County Medical Examiner PJ Schoebel. "There's a lot of drug use out there — people of all ages."

    An old nemesis

    Heroin is nothing new. However, the Columbian strain of the drug now infiltrating the Midwest is more affordable and more pure, allowing for multiple methods of delivery and a greater potential for overdose.

    "Heroin used to conjure up the image of the junkie shooting up in a dark alley. Now, with a 10-fold increase in purity from the heroin of the '60s and '80s, you can snort or smoke it, which has taken away some of that stigma attached to intravenous drug use," said Dave Spakowicz, director of field operations for the state Department of Justice.

    Spakowicz, who has investigated heroin use and trafficking in Wisconsin for more than 10 years, estimates that 70 percent of the heroin in the state traveled across the Mexican border and was shipped north to Chicago.

    "What we're seeing in the Fox Valley is what we saw in the Milwaukee area four, five years ago," Spakowicz said. "The big influx into the non-traditional urban areas is coming from the users-buyers who are buying for their own use and selling what's left to support their habit."

    "Users of illegal drugs are usually in the middle to lower economic class. So when they start looking for a fix, they are conscientious shoppers and go with what drug will give then the best bang for their money," said Dodge County Sheriff Todd Nehls.

    In the past year, street prices for narcotics like OxyContin have doubled. Conversely, prices for a quarter-gram bag of heroin have fallen to around $5 to $10 and it can be resold in Wisconsin for anywhere from $25 to $40 a bag, said Brad Dunlop, project director for the Lake Winnebago Area Metropolitan Enforcement Group.

    "That's what's driving mid-level dealers to start selling up here — there's a profit to be made," said Dunlap, who estimates that around 90 percent of heroin users are former OxyContin addicts.

    Highly addictive

    It used to take years for someone to build a drug habit from recreational marijuana use all the way up the ladder to harder drugs like heroin, but the progression now happens more quickly.

    "There's this misconception out there by first-time users that they won't get addicted or become an IV drug user if they only snort heroin. That's so untrue," Spakowicz said. "Everyone keeps on chasing that high with more and more heroin. Pretty soon, they've switched to IV use."

    Spakowicz said drug enforcement officials are also seeing another alarming trend.

    "We've seen females that are light drug users being shot up with heroin by their boyfriends," he said. "Because of the high purity, they can go right from marijuana to heroin and be addicted in no time."

    Collateral damage

    Area law enforcement officers knew it was only a matter of time before heroin found its way into Fond du Lac, said Deputy Police Chief Kevin Lemke. In addition to the horrific physical side effects heroin addiction unleashes on the user, Lemke said the community at large will also feel the pain.

    "Once an area has been introduced to a high quality of cheap heroin, we see the prices starting to increase and the quality fall," Lemke said. "Because someone with a serious addiction needs more and more drugs to maintain the high and keep from withdrawing, the addiction becomes expensive. At that time, we'll start to see more thefts, car entries, burglaries and possibly armed robberies in the community."

    Those who become caught up in the addictive nature of heroin often find themselves in an endless cycle of rehab and relapse.

    "A lot of times, they'll check out of rehab and go right back to using," Spakowicz said. "What's scary is that after 30 days of being clean, their tolerance level has dropped. When they try to use the same amount as before, there's a strong potential for them to overdose and die."

    Van Hollen says he is committed to curtailing the spread of heroin by partnering with other law enforcement agencies, multijurisdictional enforcement teams and prosecutors like Dodge County District Attorney Kurt Klomberg, who hopes to send a strong message to heroin dealers.

    "The most important thing we need to do as a law enforcement community and as a greater community in protecting our kids is to stop the access to heroin," Klomberg said. "Distributing heroin is a very serious crime, and I'll be treating these cases very sternly, asking for prison time more often than not."

    By Colleen Kottke
    The Reporter
    November 21, 2010


  1. Mr. Mojo Risin
    Re: SPECIAL REPORT: As heroin makes its way into rural areas, impact hits close to ho

    I always find it weird how drugs go in cycles, one is popular and then fades only to be replaced by the next "drug of the now". Sounds like heroin is coming back, this isn't the first article I've read in the last couple of years talking about heroin use becoming more popular and of course the drug is always getting "purer".

    Was that picture from the news article? What's up with that huge syringe? Does it simply look big because of its size proportionally to the rest of the stuff? Is this some scare tactic by the newspaper so that people imagine decrepit and rotting junkies viciously stabbing themselves with large syringes?
  2. Balzafire
    Re: SPECIAL REPORT: As heroin makes its way into rural areas, impact hits close to ho

    Yep. That picture was from the article. I know.... big, isn't it?
  3. scimor
    Re: SPECIAL REPORT: As heroin makes its way into rural areas, impact hits close to ho

    Surprisingly, this article is only a tad bit sensationalised. Being from the Chicago area, my albino pygmy chinchilla says,"I have known quite a few youngsters, between 18 and 24, who have gotten into heroin from their boyfriends or friends. These kids tend to go downhill fast if they keep using, which you will certainly do if they like it. In the matter of 3 to 6 weeks, they're hooked.

    After that first awful episode of withdrawal, if they make it past day 1 or 2, some stop. Unfortunately, most give up quitting because, as many DF folks know, those 'flu-like' symptoms make one pretty much suicidal. Probably a small percentage actually take their lives, but I'd bet money that almost EVERYONE has the thought, even to the point of planning how they'd do it.

    So here's what ends up happening: addict is dopesick for the first time, then manages to score by the time they realize they can't even function (day 2 if one is tough). Then the miracle of how swiftly and comprehensively the magic powder takes away the sickness and leaves user overjoyed to just feel normal again gets in one's head, and they will now basically do whatever they can to keep dope in their system.

    I have known a few addicts who were hardcore theives, typically retail theft from a store such as Home Depot, who will give refunds in the form of store credit without a receipt. Then they find someone who is in the trades and is more than willing to pay 100 bucks for a 200 dollar store credit. Same with men's clothing, women's clothing, and pretty much anything they can steal and return w/o a receipt. There has to be alot of the retail stores like HD or Mens Warehouse or else the clerks would recognize them.

    Anyone who classifies heroin as cheap hasn't a clue. Sure, you don't need to spend much on one bag, but it doesn't take long to get up to 10-15 bags a day and more.

    The only thing I as a chinchilla pretty much disagree with is the purity. I mean if it's 10x as strong as it used to be, I can't imagine even getting high off it. That and the 'physical damage' part. Sure,if you are hardcore IV and have a huge habit, it'll take its toll, but most addicts I know and have known in my 15 years out there have been functioning addicts who snort. The amount usually just levels off. Factors driving your level would be; whatever you need to keep you going (say 5-6 bags daily, with a once every two weeks or so bingeing to around 15 in one day, usually when you just grabbed a big order), and whatever you can afford. Most addicts are still managing to pay the bills but every other available dollar goes towards the habit in some form."

    One other thing my chinchilla added was that half of the addicts he's known are older, 25-45 years, and although they are definitely hooked and cannot quit without some form of help, they do maintain without losing everything and without dying or getting arrested(for the most part).

    Helluva drug, I hear. Pinky the chinchilla wishes he never would have been so stupid, bored, curios, and lacking in self esteem. Maybe then he would have had enough sense to never try that stuff. He says his life is ten times as fucked as when he was crackin'. At least with crack he only used during his 24-72 hour binge and then took anywhere from a week to three months before he did it again.

    Sorry for the rant and getting off-topic, but Pinky says if one person thinks twice because of what he/she has read here, then it's worth every second of his time in sharing his experience.

    BTW- just as Jane says, he's "Gonna kick tomorrow!".:s
  4. coolhandluke
    Re: SPECIAL REPORT: As heroin makes its way into rural areas, impact hits close to ho

    all those cities mentioned are eastern wisconsin and fox valley/greenbay area. swim thinks there was always heroin around there, but now that oxycontin is harder to find and heroin easier and cheaper, people are switching over. swim's town is far west in wisconsin, minneapolis is where most of the people go for drugs, meth, ecstasy, heroin, ect.

    someone in town here just overdosed on heroin, and a guy swim used to know from a few years ago, got a reckless homicide charge for selling it to him.
  5. static_vodka_420
    Re: SPECIAL REPORT: As heroin makes its way into rural areas, impact hits close to ho

    Was that picture from the news article? What's up with that huge syringe? Does it simply look big because of its size proportionally to the rest of the stuff? Is this some scare tactic by the newspaper so that people imagine decrepit and rotting junkies viciously stabbing themselves with large syringes?[/QUOTE]

    swim says thats a 3 cc syringe probablly 26 and a half gauge needle. Swim uses one similar to it for pharmaceuticals sinbce it holds more units of water and he needs to dissolve around 6 hydromorphone, 3 oxycodone, or 2 oxymorphone tyablets for a good rush. The article did state this area was moving up from oxycontin and swim has experience using these rigs for that purpose.
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