Heroin always seemed to be the drug of fast-living artists or the inner city poor.

Not any more, thanks to a shortage of prescription drugs such as oxycodone. Not only is heroin making a comeback in its tradition haunts, it is moving into the affluent suburbs.

That was the case on May 16 when a special unit of Chesterfield County police crept up to a tidy apartment building near Hull Street Road and its huge upscale housing developments of Brandermill and Woodlake.

Police had been acting on a tip they had traced back from a recent heroin overdose. They arrested Sean Kelly Heyward, 43, who lived in the apartment, and Jamal Nathan Gethers, 32, of Plainfield, N.J., and seized drug material and $34,820 in cash.

Corinne Geller, spokesperson for the Virginia State Police, says that heroin-relate drugs have risen 125 percent to 108 from 2012 to 2013. Users tend to be people in their 20s to 50s who have middle to higher incomes and live in the suburbs from Fairfax to Richmond’s Henrico and Chesterfield to Hampton Roads.

“Heroin is not a drug of choice,” Capt. Brad Badgerow of the Chesterfield County police told me in an article I wrote for the Chesterfield Observer. It’s a second choice of sorts – the result of crackdowns on other abuse.

For some years, addicts got hooked on prescription drugs such as oxycodone or acetaminophen which were readily available at pharmacies and traded out from there. Police began cracking down on doctors who over-prescribed such drugs and police and community service organizations launched “take backs” where people could drug off prescription drugs they had at home, no questions asked. The result? Prices for such drugs can be three times what a hit of street heroin costs.

“You have someone who hurts his back and he gets on oxycodone,” says Badgerow. “He’s hooked but it gets too expensive so he moves on to heroin.” In Chesterfield last year, a teacher at an elementary school was arrested when heroin and paraphernalia were found on her car on school property.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe has announced a task force to look into the problem. In the Richmond area, regional police and the Drug Enforcement Agency are planning a conference in a few days.

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6 responses to “Heroin: New Scourge of Suburbs”

  1. mshapiro Avatar

    Heroin is a big problem down here in Hampton Roads as well. But Heroin has always been here, the issue now seems to be that this stuff is a lot more pure than what was around 5-10 years ago. Back then, the only people dealing heroin where the higher level drug dealers who had a little bit of street chemistry knowledge. They could test and cut the product and make sure it wasn’t going to kill off their customer base. Now these kids are getting heroin that is more pure, for a lower cost, and they have no idea how to go about cutting it properly. It’s definitely counter intuitive and would not go over well from a PR perspective, but we need some kind of effort to reach out to the people selling this stuff and educate them about purity levels. We are not going to get this stuff off the street anytime soon. We can either wait a few years to get it under control while dozens of people die from OD’s or we can try and make an effort to get the street dealers to cut the purity level while still trying to arrest them.

  2. bryancain Avatar

    Acetaminophen? I think perhaps you’re mistaken on your drugs there.

  3. Tysons Engineer Avatar
    Tysons Engineer

    The idea that drugs are an inner city problem is insulting to say the least. They aren’t. They are an every where issue, its just that there are more cops, in tighter quarters, and therefore arrests for drugs in inner cities are in greater quantity than the “affluent suburbs”.

    Rush Limbaugh -> drug addict, scott free

    Statistic teenager in Portsmith -> drug addict, jail for 10 years

    That pretty much sums it up

  4. larryg Avatar

    let’s add some knowledge to the conversation:

    ” Prescription Drugs Now Kill More People In The US Than Heroin And Cocaine Combined


    ” Prescription opioid painkillers are responsible for more fatal overdoses in the U.S. than heroin and cocaine combined, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

    See my problem is with the narrative…that seeks to highlight the “kind” of people who “do drugs” as somehow not from the parts of society that are respectable and responsible –

    when the reality is – that drugs are a problem across the board for our society with one important exception. the demographic that uses drugs in our society is not in prison at the same demographic rate of use.

    and the costs to society of incarcerating those who deal with “illegal” drugs are astronomical and include, as discussed in a prior post – the kids who go to school missing their parents…

    We go forward on this – when we get ourselves away from the “holier than thou” approach to drug use.

    and as usual – I think we do that – when we truly seek the truth of the matter and the truth here is that we severely punish some and ignore the others doing the same thing because they’re “respectable”.

    and as usual – the “put them in prison folks – usually hew from the religious right…and political right.

  5. DJRippert Avatar

    Isn’t acetominaphin the active ingredient in Tylenol? Does it somehow get abused too?

    Also, hasn’t our glorious infallible government waged a multi-decade trillion dollar War on Drugs? You mean it hasn’t worked? Don’t tell LarryG. He thinks the government is just as magical as a unicorn.

    1. larryg Avatar

      re: ” Don’t tell LarryG. He thinks the government is just as magical as a unicorn”

      actually I OPPOSE the typical Conservative big govt approach to drugs because it’s hypocritical in it’s treatment of citizens who abuse drugs.

      one group goes to prison and the other group is ignored.

      but this did not start with Obama… it started quite some time ago under previous POTUS and the Conservatives still want that approach – just look at their attitudes towards legalizing POT.

      and if Obama actually proposed a more enlightened and even-handed policy the right would add that to their bill of particulars that accuse him of not being one of us.

      we are totally screwed up as a country when it comes to this issue because of the number of people we put in prison over it… more than any other country on the planet – and to the detriment of millions of kids who are deprived of a parent.

      What’s funny is DJ’s “alternative” to this.. what is it? it’s fine to make loony comments about unicorns and things you don’t like but what is your approach? what would you have leaders do instead?

      that’s the problem. we have way too many who don’t like what we have – but their approach is blame and not solutions.

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