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Heroin: Heating Up, Part 1

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GRANTS PASS, Ore. — “H”, “gun powder”, and “brown”: they’re all names for an illegal and powerful drug that’s moving through Southern Oregon in the hundreds of thousands of pounds.

One man who spoke with NewsWatch12’s Sharon Ko wished to remain anonymous; we’ll call him John Doe. He’s not proud of his past.

“I’ve been an opiate addict for 6 years,” John Doe said. “Been peeling people left and right, ripping people off, running people’s houses, it’s not a glamorous lifestyle.”

As a recovering heroin addict, he still remembers the feeling – “Euporic” – and has the cravings that won’t let go.

“You’re always chasing the high,” he said.

The exact number of heroin addicts in the United States is unknown. It’s roughly estimated to be between 750,000 and a million people. Officers with the Grants Pass Department of Public Safety come across addicts every night.

Venice is an admitted heroin user. Police run into Venice often. They say she sells her body to pay for her fix.

“I have no desire to do it,” Venice says. “I hate it. I want to be clean. I’m down to freaking 2 points a day. From a gram and a half to two grams a day. I f—–g quit doing meth. I broke up with my boyfriend, and I’ve detached from all of my friends, and I go to court and I keep going to jail.”

The heroin addiction started out with pain-killers for Venice.

“I just hurt really bad,” Venice recalled. “I’ve got rumatory arthritis, spinal fusion, several bad injuries from the epilepsy…I hurt. A lot.”

A few rooms down from her hotel room, police also find meth users.

“We’ll see a lot of meth and heroin is just catching up with it. We typically don’t see heroin users use meth also, but you’ll still see it in the same circle of people,” explained Officer John Nicklason.

Despite methaminphine’s addictive qualities, heroin is still considered one of the most addictive drugs in the world. Heroin affects specialized receptors in the brain. The drug mimics endorphins, a chemical produced in your body that signals reward and pleasure. The continued use of heroin is essentially training the body to need the drug.

“It’s a physical fight. It’s a mental fight,” said the

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 23 percent of people who try heroin are hooked.

Law enforcement calls Southern Oregon a regional hub for heroin. That’s because this drug enters our area, right below us. Interstate 5 is the main thruway to transport and distribute heroin. Hundreds and thousands of pounds come through Interstate 5.

“So, generally the drugs are coming from the south and going north, and the proceeds are going back south,” explained Medford Police Chief Tim George.

But methampthine still has a strong presence in Southern Oregon.

“I wouldn’t say methamphetamine has gone down by any means. I think the shift right now is as you’ve seen, the type of cases that we’re working, there’s just as many heroin cases that we’re involved in,” explained Chief George. “In fact, one of the largest heroin seizures in the state occurred in the Southern Oregon region. I want to say last year. The dope cops can tell you, all of the people involved can tell you, that it used to be a couple of ounces of heroin was a big case and now, if it’s not a couple of pounds, it’s not that big of a case. Unfortunately the numbers have ratcheted up as far as what’s normal, and I hate to use the word “normal” when I’m talking about illicit drugs, because I don’t like to say that – that this is “normal,” but unfortunately, we’re getting to a point where it’s not a surprise to us, to get this type of weight,” said George.

The heroin that the Medford Area Drug and Gang Enforcement Task Force seizes is never a pure cut. Dealers mix to cash in.

“That’s delivery controlled substance 101 make your pot bigger so when you divide it up, you have more to distribute to make more money. So, they’ll mix in instant coffee, brown sugar, all sorts of impurities into that to cut that,” Chief George said. “One, because maybe the potency level is so high you don’t want to distribute that to your customers because your customers are going to be dying on you.”

“You never know what you’re getting. So, you could shoot half grams, or shoot a point. Some people fall out on that point, some people fall out on half gram,” John Doe remarks.

It’s not just users, dealers, and police officers who are impacted by heroin. There are many other victims who don’t have a say in the situation. In the segment, learn how it’s impacting our community, from users to children and how law enforcement is responding in part two Heroin: Heating Up.