"Most of the Eastern states, for the past several years, it’s been very difficult to get much heroin at all and a lot of the times it will just be pure fentanyl,” said Dr. Ryan Marino, medical director of toxicology and addiction medicine at University Hospitals in Cleveland.
Once one of the most popular—and notorious—illicit opioids, heroin is disappearing from drug markets across North America. In some places where it was once widely available, like Vancouver, British Columbia, dealers and users told VICE News there’s no heroin to be found. And they want it back, not just because it’s their drug of choice but also because its replacement—fentanyl—is killing people in droves. Meanwhile, drug users who’ve shifted from using heroin to fentanyl are seeing their tolerances increase, making it harder to switch back, even if that’s what they desire. Some users are calling for a heroin renaissance of sorts—they want a legal exemption to source and use it—before it’s too late. “We are missing the opportunity. It is going by so fast,” said Erica Thomson, executive director of British Columbia and Yukon Association for Drug War Survivors, a drug user advocacy group. “Is this goodbye to heroin?” People like Garrett and Thomson have their reasons for favouring heroin, including its vinegary smell, its taste, and the feeling of “euphoria” it can create.But there are pressing reasons why its scarcity is wreaking havoc. Primarily, that it’s much easier to overdose on fentanyl.
“Is this goodbye to heroin?”
“[Heroin] overdoses would be in the thousands every year, which is still bad and requires work. But seeing now almost 100,000 Americans died last year from overdoses, and that’s primarily from fentanyl.”
According to Boyd, heroin’s popularity in North America began taking off in the 1950s and 60s. It was used by a number of classic rock artists, including members of the Rolling Stones during their “Exile on Main Street” getaway to France, and was the subject of songs by Neil Young and The Velvet Underground, among others.
“There was an attraction to it. You were sort of pushing boundaries. You were exploring new horizons.”
She’s pushing the B.C. government to give drug user groups like hers exemptions so that they can create heroin compassion clubs, allowing them a clean supply of heroin that could then be distributed among members and consumed—potentially in a lounge—free of criminal sanctions. She already tested a pilot version of the project three years ago with around eight people.
“She said it reminded her of waking up with Grandma’s apple pie on Christmas morning.”
Keisha said she can find any drug, but old-school heroin is among the hardest to come across from her various suppliers. “It’s almost hidden away. You have to really dig for it,” she said. When she’s able to find it, it often has a hefty price tag, as high as $4,200 an ounce. Raw fentanyl costs her about $500 for a “ball,” which can then make an ounce, once it’s diluted with buffers. A point of fentanyl is $20—a point of heroin these days would be at least that, though heroin would last around six to eight hours; with fentanyl, depending on a person’s tolerance, they may want more in a couple of hours.