Authorities link resurgence of heroin in Grand Valley to prescription drug abuse
Heroin’s foothold in western Colorado for years was isolated to the mountains, chiefly Pitkin County and Aspen, according to the Grand Junction head of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
That high has come down to the valleys, appealing to a younger crowd, the DEA’s Jim Schrant said.
“We’re seeing it more and more throughout other western Colorado communities, such as Durango … primarily among college to high-school-age kids,” Schrant said.
Changes to the form of the drug have increased its appeal. Historically, black tar heroin, a hard substance heated up and melted for intravenous injection, was the most common in western Colorado, he said.
Popularity increased when the need for needles went away.
“Most recent years, we’ve seen more of a powder form of heroin, which is snorted or smoked rather than injected,” Schrant said.
Authorities believe heroin’s increasing presence is intertwined with abuse of prescription drugs, particularly opiate-rooted products like OxyContin, producing similar effects on the user.
In Mesa County, heroin found a relatively new and inexperienced market, inundated for years with warnings about another drug.
“If you take the average high school student in Mesa County, I’d bet they could articulate fairly well the dangers associated with methamphetamine,” Schrant said. “But I think outside hard-core users, there’s an unknown set of problems associated with heroin that’s really developed in the high school and college demographic.”
Heroin is the most expensive of the “big three” in western Colorado, which includes cocaine and meth, selling anywhere between $40,000 to $60,000 per kilogram, according to Schrant.
Drug Task Force officers executing a no-knock search warrant on Nov. 8 at 1015 Unaweep Ave. found approximately $28,000 cash inside a safe, aside from evidence of distribution of the drug, according to an arrest affidavit.
There were also some seven rifles or handguns, while another raid during a heroin investigation Feb. 18 at 834 Elm Ave. turned up a pair of pistols and two assault rifles.
“You’ve got a much more valuable product and a lot more money being generated,” Schrant said.