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Cheap heroin gains popularity with teens

If you overhear kids talking about “cheese,” you may want to listen a little closer – they may not be discussing their favorite pizza topping, but rather, a killer version of heroin popular with teens.

“Cheese” is the innocuous-sounding nickname for a dangerous drug emerging in the teen heroin market, according to local law enforcement.

It’s a mixture of black tar heroin and chopped-up Tylenol PM. It looks like parmesan cheese, which users ingest by snorting.



“The high lasts up to six days,” Grass Valley Police Sgt. Scott Telles told patrol officers at a recent night shift briefing. “It can be as cheap as $10 a gram.”

The drug is popular with teens because of its affordable price. Police in other areas have found the coarse powder contained in folded paper hidden inside the battery cells of kids’ cellular phones, Telles said.




This “starter heroin” has not yet been located by law enforcement in Nevada County, officials said.

“It’s only a matter of time,” Nevada County Sheriff’s Narcotics Task Force Sgt. Chris Sharp said Wednesday. “All roads lead to Nevada County.”

Sharp said the drug “is definitely on our radar.”

According to a recent article in the Texas National Press, “cheese” first surfaced in 2005 and disproportionately hit teens in Dallas’ Hispanic community.

Some believed that drug traffickers were bringing the heroin up from Mexico, according to the article, and 21 Texas teens have died from accidentally overdosing on the mixture.

Mexican black tar heroin is usually smuggled into the U.S. in amounts of five pounds or less, but occasionally law enforcement seizes larger amounts, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“The increased availability of high-purity heroin that can be snorted allows a new, younger population to use heroin without a syringe and needle,” the DEA Web site states. “Drug treatment specialists stated that these new heroin users ingest large amounts of heroin and become quickly addicted.”

While cheese has not yet emerged in Nevada County, Sharp has noticed the abuse of prescription drugs is on the rise locally, he said.

“There’s an increase of pharmaceuticals,” he said. “OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet – all age groups are doing it.”

The prescription painkillers have been confiscated in several recent probation searches and traffic stops within the county, according to police and sheriff’s records.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, “doctor shopping” and prescription forgery are the primary methods of prescription drug abuse in San Francisco, and in Northern California, OxyContin, Vicodin, benzodiazepines and carisoprodoll are most commonly abused.

“Doctor-shopping” is the method of going to several doctors to obtain multiple prescriptions for controlled pharmaceuticals.

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To contact Staff Writer Robyn Moormeister, e-mail robynm@theunion.com or call 477-4236.

‘Hot’ drugs to look out for

Cheese:

• A mixture of black tar heroin and Tylenol PM with an appearance similar to parmesan cheese.

• When snorted, it’s said to induce a feeling of euphoria for up to six days.

• It’s relatively cheap and popular with teens.

OxyContin:

• A prescription painkiller used for moderate to high pain relief.

• Commonly known on the street as OC, OX, Oxy, Oxycotton, Hillbilly heroin, and kicker.

• Its introduction in 1996 led to a marked escalation of its abuse as reported by drug abuse treatment centers, law enforcement personnel, and health care professionals.

Vicodin:

• A brand of hydrocodone, a powerful and potentially addictive pharmaceutical painkiller.

• Vicodin can have a street value of anywhere between $2 and $4 per pill

Perocet:

• A combination of acetaminophen and oxycodone, the active ingredient in OxyContin.

• Oxycodone is a Schedule II narcotic analgesic and is widely used in clinical medicine.

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Source: Drug Enforcement Administration, Nevada County Sheriff’s Office and Grass Valley Police


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