Three young men from Atlanta's affluent northern suburbs died within a month of each other from a suspected heroin overdose, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Their deaths reinforced a creeping concern that the powerful opiate is gaining a greater toehold in suburban Atlanta. Ronald Loula,a high school swim coach who taught all three young men at a middle school, said, “I'm not talking about people smoking a joint, I'm talking about kids finding heroin, apparently readily available.”
As high-schoolers, all three experimented with marijuana, alcohol, and prescription drugs to relieve stress or to have what seemed like harmless fun at parties. Later they graduated to harder drugs, according to loved ones. A 2010 Atlanta drug market analysis from the U.S. Department of Justice found heroin is becoming more prevalent in suburban areas where it used to be rare. Forty-six of 62 metro area law enforcement agencies reported heroin was available at moderate to low levels. Police think part of the reason is economics. At about $15 a hit, heroin is a cheaper alternative to prescription painkillers that can cost $30 to $80 a pill. Both are opiates and have similar effects.