Black-Tar Heroin Lures New Users
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
Sam Quinones of the Los Angeles Times has written a three-part series on black tar, called "The Heroin Road." He joins me now. And, Sam, this black tar trade in the U.S. follows a very different business model. You compare it to operating like a pizza delivery services. Describe what happens.
BLOCK: And soon, they'll be - these folks from Xalisco will be taking orders, as if they were pizza deliverers. And then they have a series of drivers tooling around town with small balloons of heroin in their mouths, making these deliveries. And so it's a kind of a system that is very reliable for the user and also avoids the police, in large measure. And that's what makes it attractive to the dealers.
BLOCK: You point out that this trade in black tar heroin from Xalisco in Mexico is quite different from the Colombian heroin trade in that they're targeting a very different clientele.
BLOCK: These guys are farm boys. They are interested in making a lot of money in a short amount of time with the least amount of risk and the least amount of notoriety. And so what they do is they will target cities where there really is not much heroin to speak of. And I'm talking about Salt Lake City, Charlotte, Columbus, Nashville. Oftentimes they really are focused on white customers. They don't like dealing with blacks or Latinos. They're going for the path of least resistance, really.
BLOCK: Why is it called black tar heroin?
BLOCK: Because it looks like kind of gooey. It's heroin that has not been fully processed.
BLOCK: And how cheap would it be?
BLOCK: I've heard it getting down as much as $6, $8 a hit, you know?
BLOCK: And that would mean that for communities that may have a problem or have had a problem with prescription pills, pain pills like OxyContin, this would be way cheaper than that.
BLOCK: Along comes black tar with $6 a dose, $12, $15 a dose and you need two or three of them a day. You're satisfying your addiction at about a tenth the cost.
BLOCK: One tragic side of this that you track in your reporting is huge spikes in deaths from overdose from black tar heroin.
BLOCK: But the problem is this black tar arrives and a lot of times people don't know how to use it. A lot of times, it's way too potent. A lot of times they don't know how to deal with people who are ODing and they'll just abandon the people that - as they begin to OD because they'd never seen anything like that.
BLOCK: Let's talk about the supply side of this equation. You went over the border. You went to Xalisco and reported on how the drug trade has transformed these very poor farming communities, completely turned them upside down.
BLOCK: So that has also transformed the social relationships, in a way I thought was very interesting and important. Because if you go north after a lifetime of being humiliated and looked down on, and you come back with money in your pocket, that's almost a narcotic in itself.
BLOCK: Sam Quinones of the Los Angeles Times whose series is called "The Heroin Road." Sam, thanks very much.
BLOCK: My pleasure. Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.