Expert: Heroin Now Socially Acceptable in Charlotte


by Morgan Fogarty
Bio | Email | Follow: @morganfogarty by Photographer Billy Carrier

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Black tar heroin use is growing in Charlotte. Nowadays, it's more potent, easier to get and cheaper than ever.  It's sold in $9 balloons, even cheaper if you buy in bulk.  Needles aren't necessary anymore, either.  Many of today's heroin users dilute it in water, put it in a nasal spray bottle and snort it.

Experts have noticed that over the past five years, those users are often young, white professionals who live in affluent parts of town.  Matthews tops the list. 19 residents entered Carolinas HealthCare System's inpatient detox program in 2011.  Mint Hill is next, with 10.  Then, Cramerton in Gaston County with 8. Next, south Charlotte, including Myers Park and Dilworth with 7, and finally, two zips in east Charlotte, also each with 7.

"We see lawyers, people that work for the banks, we see people in the medical profession.  Heroin has become very socially acceptable in Charlotte," says Robert Martin.  He is the Director of Substance Abuse Services for Carolinas HealthCare System.  He says prescription drugs are often the gateway to heroin.  When a pharmacist catches on, a dealer is happy to step in.  Martin says, "Our patients tell us that the dealers meet in nice areas of Charlotte."

East Charlotte resident Keith Leveille says, "I don't understand that at all.  You would think that more affluent people would have a higher level of intelligence, higher IQ."  One Matthews resident calls the news is a wake up call.  She says, "The reality is, it could be anywhere.  To think that it's not gonna happen in your backyard is a delusion."

Many experts agree we can't arrest our way out of this problem.  They suggest treatment, along with open, honest dialogue with family and friends who have addiction issues.

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