the real gateway drug

is not pot. It’s a combination of prescription meds and well-intentioned crackdowns on the availability of those meds for recreational purposes:

While the shift from OxyContin to other opium-based drugs may be surprising to some, it is not to professionals in the fields of medicine and law enforcement….

John J. Burke, president of the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators and a former Cincinnati police officer in charge of pharmaceutical investigations… noted that virtually all of the “anecdotal evidence” on substance abuse points to [unavailability of Oxycontin] moving addicts to different drugs, “whether it’s Oxycodone IR, heroin, [or] maybe it’s Opana.”

Now that Cicero’s study has confirmed that anecdotal knowledge, it’s likely that the FDA will have to take into consideration the possibility that making all opioid drugs abuse-resistant could push many people addicted to pure, measured, clinical substances into a dirty, dangerous black market.

“[Oxycontin] is a relatively safe drug in that you know what you’re getting and you know your dose level,” Cicero said. “But buying heroin — no heroin is pure on the street. It’s cut by dealers to extend it as far as possible. There are reports of heroin purity being down to the 5-10 percent range, so it’s really filled with a lot of adulterants….”

[T]he potential for the emergence of new, more dangerous drugs is also an ever-present threat. One such drug is desomorphine, a.k.a. “crocodile,” seen increasingly across Russia and used as a low-cost alternative to heroin. Cooked out of common codeine-based pills and household products like gasoline, paint thinner and red phosphorus, heroin addicts who switch to crocodile often see their flesh literally rot off their bones.

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One Response to the real gateway drug

  1. JTS says:

    Heroin in the Far East (Hong Kong especially) is often smoked because it’s so pure. So for American users, there is the dirty needle problem on top of the impurity problem for switchers.

    But unlike the American addict who has to shoot directly into his veins with a syringe to get any kick at all from the diluted, 5 percent pure heroin he buys on the street, the Hong Kong addict can satisfy his craving by smoking it, since he can buy a much purer grade. The majority of them use a grayish, lumpy brand of no. 3 heroin, which is usually about 40 percent pure. Since its quality is high and its price low, most addicts get high with no. 3 “chasing the dragon” or “playing the mouth organ.” The user places several lumps of no. 3 on a piece of aluminum foil and heats it with a lighted match. As it melts and gives off smoke, he sucks in the wavering fumes through a rolledup piece of paper (“chasing the dragon”) or through a match box cover (“playing the mouth organ”). About 25 percent of the addict population uses a higher grade of no. 3, known popularly as “White Dragon Pearl.” It is about 50 percent pure, and gains its characteristic chalky-white color when cut with a form of barbiturate called “barbitone.” The user grinds the white chunks into a granular powder and smokes them in an ordinary tobacco cigarette. Since euphoria builds with the short, staccato bursts of each puff, addicts call this method “shooting the ack-ack gun.” (The few Hong Kong addicts who do use the needle usually cannot afford the expensive, powdery no. 4 heroin and content themselves with grinding down “White Dragon Pearl.”

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