Thanks to a sophisticated marketing strategy by South American drug lords, heroin has moved from back alley shooting galleries to suburban schools, reports the Boston Herald in a two-part series. Fatal opiate overdoses among teens and young adults have tripled in Massachusetts over four years. Hospitalizations have doubled.
Heroin is dirt cheap, pure enough to snort and it’s hooking kids barely into their teens across the state. “It can happen to anyone’s kids. Don’t for one minute think I’m not worried about my kids getting hooked up on heroin,” said Lowell police Capt. Robert DeMoura.
Project Rebound gets about 10 calls daily from parents and social workers trying to get a child a bed at the Boston rehab program for teens. In 2002, Massachusetts emergency rooms treated more than 2,000 people between the ages of 15 and 24 for opiate overdoses and withdrawal. “We are seeing significant increased use of heroin and OxyContin, particularly among younger kids,” said Michael Botticelli, assistant commissioner for substance abuse. “We’re hearing that kids are moving very quickly from OxyContin to heroin. Botticelli suspects the available statistics low-ball the problem because family and some emergency room doctors are reluctant to report heroin overdoses among kids.
Authorities trace the problem to a calculated decision by South American drug cartels to push heroin over cocaine. That has produced a flood of lethally pure smack that just about any eighth-grader can buy with his lunch money. “The old school rule where you don’t sell to kids, those days are long gone,” said New Bedford Juvenile Drug Court case manager Robert McPherson.
Some drug rings appear to be targeting kids. “The bags have symbols and colors. They are designed without question to attract young people,” Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said. “It’s frightening.”
Then there’s the free samples. “They’ll give it to you free the first couple of times,” said Earl Dandy, director of the teen rehab program Project Rebound. “A $5 bag of heroin? If I’m willing to sacrifice $10, I’m subject to make in the course of your using $10,000. So what’s $10?”