Tuesday, November 01, 2016



Maybe two or three years ago we started hearing about  heroin as if it were some sort of new and dangerous epidemic casting itself across the tri-states like some sort of unforeseen locust plague. There was this childlike belief that heroin circulating in our cities was some sort of new thing.

Moreover, when we hear the word "meth" we think of a filthy, makeshift lab in a trailer park and the subject with pock marks and missing teeth. We do not think of any particular loss of human capital. The meth user is presumed to have been an irredeemable bottom feeder anyway.

When we hear "heroin" we think "intercontinental ballistic missile of street drugs.".  It's a terrifying buzzword, which is why politicians deploy it with alacrity.

To the notion that heroine as a street drug is some new phenomenon in the tri-states U say, "nonsense!" More on that later.

The problem with being dependent upon an addictive substance is not the substance of choice, itself. It is the fact that the subject is addicted. Without question, some substances are more immediately dangerous than others, at least in the short run.

But the emphasis on drug of choice is improperly placed. A practicing addict will eventually cease to be able to function in society. Societies deal with the differently. In China, they have adopted the cheapest approach which is simply subsistence and opium dens, where the addicts get blissfully remain addicted until their respective bodily functions shut down. At least in the opium dens of China, the veteran attic's can show the rookies how to avoid killing themselves. m  In the USA we are all over the place.  We send them to prison or we pump them full of methadone.  Pick one.  Roll your own.

Back in the early 80s when the drug of choice was powder cocaine, it would be impossible to estimate how many recreational cocaine users became addicts and ultimately had to be rushed to the emergency room to prevent circulatory collapse. I watched many of these brought back to life by a physician friend of mine, one guy twice in the same night (that guy is still alive today)

Every major street drug has its danger.


The history of heroin in the tri-state is a robust one and one that speaks to old-fashioned marketing and quality control standards. My institutional memory of this scene goes back to the 60s and I am fortunate to have worked with folks who  passed on their anecdotes to me dating back to the 40s and 50s.

It surprises nobody that up through the late 70s, Quincy had an active prostitution scene. If there is one thing upon which a bet can safely move be placed it is that prostitution does not operate very well unless liberally lubricated by heroin. Where there is prostitution, there is heroin.

In the 40s and 50s there were always three for dealers and they competed vigorously with one another for regular business not just the bulk business of prostitutes (which had to be discounted). Dead customers were a very unfortunate marketing feature and so these dealers were careful to teach their buyers proper tie-off technique and to make sure that their morphine sulfate was cut with the appropriate amount of, usually strontium nitrate.   Except for accidental polydrug situations, very few people died from heroin overdoses. They may have gradually died from the inevitable abscesses, constipation and slowing of peristalsis but they did not die from hotshots.

Into the 1970s things changed. There was one monopolistic heroin dealer in town. He had a very solid and regular job at an educational institution. He had a very well-connected family. He was charming and polite. He was well groomed, punctual and when he died an accidental but natural death had something like 240 sick days built up at his work because he never missed work. he was that reliable.  A knowledgeable source told me he had never even touch morphine product to this tongue to test it and certainly never ingested it.

There was not a detective in any police agency who did not know who this candyman was.

But he could never be caught or prosecuted because he had a nearly bulletproof technique. When he sold the buyer a dose of heroin, he gave that buyer an additional dose  and he required that the buyer use the additional, free dose then and there in front of the dealer. This was done under the guise of a tutorial but it also eliminated undercover officers. Indeed, this phony tutorial probably did prevent a number of addicts from killing themselves with improperly rendered or hotshots but, again, this particular dealer was, in his own way, exercising quality control. With all due respect to the GE originators, this was a heroin dealer participating in at least one phase of  "Six Sigma" quality control.

In any event, as I have already suggested, this gentleman died as the result of an accident having nothing to do with heroin in probably the early to mid 90s.

He really didn't have many lieutenants but a few of them tried to carry on the business and pretty much just messed it up. They didn't so much get caught as couldn't work the business model and, when one doesn't have cash, the wholesalers don't wholesale.

The next phase of this saw a good deal of the heroin trade moving to Hannibal. I really don't know why but it isn't like the dealers there didn't cross the river to sell to Illinois attic's as enthusiastically as they did to Missouri addicts.

Then, in the early part of this century,the  pain control drug OxyContin somehow got comprehensively out-of-control and there was simply way too much of it on the street. There was almost no end to the creative ways people were putting the stuff into their bodies. When OxyContin got more tightly controlled, it turned out that heroine had about the same kick and was cheaper. So heroin became a more mass purchased drug than it had been in the prostitution days or in the monopolist days.  It sort of occupied the space that powder cocaine grabbed in the 80's..  There are those who say millennials are less attentive to detail. There are those who say that drug dealers are less conscientious today about how, with what and to what extent the cut there morphine sulfate. It's probably some of all of it.

The bottom line is that we have about the same number of addicts we've always had. We've got a few more opiate users because of the enormous addictive powers of Oxy and its aftermath and we've got people, buyers and sellers, who are just much more careless.

Nonetheless, I would submit to you that the biggest problem with addictive drugs in the tri-states, or anywhere, is the impact of addiction not the risk of the drug, itself.   In that regard, nothing is changed. There are those who say America, in general, is becoming more stupid. While I don't necessarily buy that, I do concede there is some evidence of it.  It just seems a little too stark to say that we are ,killing ourselves with heroin for the same reasons our manufacturing is being outsourced, we are just too stupid to be successful.  Some argue that the current election is the best evidence of it and there is something to that.

The plain fact is that Quincy had a robust heroin trade in the 1940s, in the 1950s, in the 1960s, not to mention a very steady, robust but confined heroin monopoly in the late 70s 80s and into the mid-90s. Now we have about the same level of heroin and just a whole lot less understanding of how it is to be handled and how an ethical heroin dealer (it is their own ethnic, but it is one) handles his customers.

Politics aside, there is nothing new under the sun, people.


When you are an addict, your problem is that you are an addict, not the substrance you happen to ingest that day to feed your addiction.


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