- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 30, 2014


A few weeks ago, on Jan. 8 to be precise, the governor of Vermont used his State of the State address to underscore a problem many of us do not think about: heroin addiction.

This particular substance abuse issue might not be as acute in some states as it is in Vermont or as publicized as it is in Pennsylvania. But it’s taking a toll nonetheless.

It’s easy to conjure up images of inner-city junkies unconsciously scratching themselves and nodding their heads, dead giveaways of succumbing to the powerful narcotic. Or even recall the entrepreneurial drug ways of “American Gangster” Frank Lucas, who bought — and brought — his heroin directly from Asia during the Vietnam War.

Today’s addicts and dealers don’t need to ply their wares in the shadows; they simply inform their junkies to pull up to a fast-food drive-thru, order their dope and then slip off quicker than you can say, “Happy Meal.”

That was the case in Pittsburgh, where a young pusher-woman worked the heroin trade at McDonald’s before being busted Wednesday with more than 50 bags.

Even suburbia and rural America, usually considered somewhat immune to such urban ills as heroin addiction, are immune no more. Aurora, N.Y., has a heroin problem, and so do Winchester, Va., and Harford, Md.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin characterized the problem as a statewide crisis and articulated why in his urgent message to all of us.

“What started as an OxyContin and prescription drug addiction problem in Vermont has now grown into a full-blown heroin crisis,” the governor said. “We have seen an over 250 percent increase in people receiving heroin treatment here in Vermont since 2000, with the greatest percentage increase, nearly 40 percent, in just the past year.”

That heroin addicts are receiving treatment is an upside.

But Mr. Shumlin pointed out something else: In 2013, there were twice as many federal indictments against heroin dealers than in the prior two years, and more than five times as many as had been obtained in 2010, the governor said.

Increased indictments and federal cases are one thing; rising heroin deaths and overdoses are another.

Just as gangster Frank Lucas gave his heroin a street name, “Blue Magic,” today’s culprits are doing the same. Bags are stamped “Theraflu” and “Income Tax,” and authorities say what’s inside will kill you because the narcotic is tainted with a powerful synthetic painkiller called Fentanyl.

In Maryland, 378 people died from heroin overdoses in 2012, compared with 245 in 2011.

State health officials began noticing a disturbing trend in the first half of 2012 when fatal overdoses from such prescriptions opioids as oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone began declining while heroin overdose deaths rose 80 percent on the Eastern Shore and 54 percent in Southern Maryland. Central Maryland reported a 47 percent rise.

That heroin is cheaper than prescription painkillers also has led to a most disturbing trend: According to health officials, the “largest increases in fatal heroin-related overdoses in Maryland have been among younger age groups, including a 53 percent increase among ages 15-24 and a 59 percent increase among ages 35-44.”

C’mon folks. Happy Meals? Young people? On heroin?

Junkies aren’t the only ones walking around in a stupor.

Deborah Simmons can be reached at [email protected]

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide