MATForce: Heroin is in our communities

Brandon Bonney speaks in Prescott (on screen) while the Cottonwood audience watches.

Brandon Bonney speaks in Prescott (on screen) while the Cottonwood audience watches.

COTTONWOOD -- One of the largest audiences to ever attend the regular Lunch-'n'-Learn sessions of the MATForce Substance abuse coalition gathered Thursday when the focus turned to the New Face of Heroin.

The audience was substantial at the Cottonwood Yavapai County annex as well as in the Supervisors Chambers in Prescott. The presentation originated in Prescott and was broadcast simultaneously by video conferencing in Cottonwood, where two PANT officers also answered questions and displayed samples of various illegal drugs.

Prescott Valley Police Department Sgt. and Public Information Officer Brandon Bonney presented for parents, teachers, community member, professionals and other cops, a current survey of the use of heroin.

He says the illegal drug has always been in our communities.

"Anything you have in a big city, you will also have in a small city," he said. "Heroin has existed in this area for a very long time. Some believe it may have been attracted by the number of recovery homes in the area."

The Prescott area has had a large number of homes for recovery from alcohol and drugs abuse. The number of such recovery homes and halfway houses is also growing in Cottonwood.

Bonney cautions that it is "good to have recovery homes. Recovery is a big part of the drug resolution. They are not the sole reason that heroin is here."

Bonney explained that heroin is an opiate just like Vicodin and morphine. But in recent months Yavapai County has made it very difficult to buy illegal quantities of painkillers. County Attorney Sheila Polk has taken the lead in educating the public and prosecuting distributors of pain relievers and getting doctors to reduce the number of their prescriptions.

"The one thing that continues to feed the adoption of heroin is the overwhelming acceptance of painkillers."

Bonney said the problem is that people feel if it is a prescription medicine and is prescribed by a doctor it is perfectly safe. That has led to a widespread adoption of painkillers for recreational use.

The backlash to Yavapai County's "phenomenal job" to control the abuse of prescription pain relievers has been that the supply has diminished and the demand has grown.

"Because prescription drugs are harder to find, they become less affordable than heroin."

He says, with addiction, "It stops being about not being high, but not being sick. It is a matter of coping."

The Yavapai County crack down has diminished the sources from the supplier to the doctors who write prescriptions. That has stunted the supply side of the supply and demand cycle.

Because prescription drugs are harder to find, they become less affordable and less easy to acquire than even street heroin, according to Bonney.

And the user's quantity of pain relievers increases as they become less effective, so they move on to heroin.

Overdoses occur for a number of reasons.

It may be because users have become acclimated to an increasingly higher dose and mistakenly believe the same will be the case with each new purchase, but find that it is actually much stronger.

If you take too much heroin, you will die," said Bonney. "It's that simple."

Heroin can be found as Black Tar, Mexican Brown and China White among others. The most common is the Black Tar heroin. China White is rare.

A PANT officer working in the Verde Valley said heroin is sold as a "point," the equivalent of a gram, purchased for about $100. But a seriously addicted person may consume two to three grams per day with a daily cost of $300.

"It stops being about not being high, but not being sick. It is a matter of coping."

Often, addicts will feed their habits with burglaries.

Narcan is said to be a drug that can control a body's depression from an overdose of heroin

The purity of street heroin has not been determined in Yavapai County, though the officers said a sample of methamphetamine was tested here and found to have a purity of 99.9 percent.

"Speed balling," according to the officers, is seen as mixing heroin, a depressant, with cocaine, a stimulant so that the user doesn't sleep through his dosage.

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