Black Tar Heroin in the Queen City

By Sharon Smith - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Black tar heroin is attracting newer, younger demographic across Charlotte and one undercover officer says fewer addicts are able to beat it.

"I know users doing 20 to 30 balloons a day," said the undercover officer who works for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.

He says there's been a surge in usage the past two years. In 2008 there were eight overdoses. In 2009, there were 44.

He says parents need to quit being in denial and start looking for the warning signs. He says they sooner families can seek treatment for their loved one, the better the addicts odds of rehabilitation.

Addicts often have bruising over veins in the arms, legs, and feet where they shoot up the drug. Parents might notice bloody cotton balls, or balloon fragments, too.

Heroin is growing in popularity, in part because it's cheap.

"You can order it like a pizza," said the officer. "You can call up, they'll deliver it to you and you're getting the best heroin for the cheapest price. And it's being delivered to you in a safe location," he said.

The officer said many users get on the path to heroin by starting with prescription painkillers. Teenagers will steal prescriptions for Oxycontin, Oxycodone, and Hydrocodone.

"When that's no longer available, they have to turn to something else," he said.

Police have warned local workers at rehabilitation clinics to get ready for more need. More patients are coming in.

The officer said some families spend thousands of dollars trying get treatment for their loved one.

"We can't arrest our way out of the problem," he said. It will take schools, parents, churches and the community to beat black tar heroin, according to the officer.