ARCHIVED To Contents To Previous Page To Next Page To Publications Page To Home Page
National Drug Intelligence Center
North Carolina Drug Threat Assessment
Heroin availability and abuse are generally low to moderate in most areas of North Carolina. Heroin is available and abused most commonly in urban areas and is rarely available in rural areas. Most heroin abusers in North Carolina are older, chronic abusers who inject the drug. However, since the 1990s when high purity South American heroin became available, a younger, middle-class population has begun to abuse the drug. High purity heroin allows abusers to effectively snort or smoke the drug and avoid the health hazards and social stigma associated with injecting drug use. South American heroin is the type most commonly available and abused in North Carolina, although Mexican black tar heroin also is distributed and abused in a few parts of the state. African American, Caucasian, and Mexican criminal groups transport relatively small amounts of heroin into North Carolina primarily in private and commercial vehicles. These criminal groups sell retail quantities directly to abusers or to African American, Caucasian, and Hispanic gang members and local independent dealers who conduct further retail distribution.
The number of heroin-related treatment admissions in North Carolina has increased. Admissions increased from 1,683 in FY1996 to 2,298 in FY1999, ranking third behind admissions for cocaine and marijuana during that period, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The rate of heroin abuse is stable among older, longtime abusers in North Carolina, but the number of younger abusers has increased.
Rates of heroin abuse among adult male arrestees are low. According to ADAM data, approximately 1.9 percent of adult male arrestees in Charlotte in 2000 tested positive for heroin.
Heroin overdoses are increasing in North Carolina. According to the state medical examiner, there were 27 deaths in 2000 in which heroin was the primary cause of death and 34 in 2001. According to law enforcement officials, abuse of high purity South American heroin is at least partially responsible for the increasing number of overdoses. Law enforcement officials report that heroin overdoses were virtually nonexistent until the mid-1990s when high purity South American heroin became available.
High purity South American heroin is attracting a younger, middle-class abuser population in North Carolina. Most heroin abusers in North Carolina are longtime abusers who inject the drug; however, law enforcement officials in some areas report that teenagers and young adults are increasingly abusing high purity heroin that can be effectively snorted or smoked. Law enforcement officers in Winston-Salem report that heroin abuse now includes 18- to 28-year-old users as well as longtime, older abusers. By snorting or smoking heroin, young abusers attempt to avoid the stigma associated with injection as well as diseases such as hepatitis C and AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) that can be spread by sharing needles. Some young abusers also believe that snorting and smoking heroin are less risky methods of administering the drug. They sometimes abuse heroin at rave parties and nightclubs often combining it with powdered cocaine, a practice called speedballing.
Heroin availability is generally low to moderate in most areas of North Carolina. Heroin is most commonly available in urban areas such as Charlotte, Gastonia, Durham, High Point, and Wilmington and is rarely available in rural areas. The Durham Police Department, in response to the NDIC National Drug Threat Survey 2001, reports that heroin is widely available. White powdered heroin, produced in South America, is the type most commonly available in the state. Limited amounts of Mexican black tar heroin also are available in areas such as Hickory Lane.
The amount of heroin seized in North Carolina was low from 1998 to 2001. According to FDSS data, federal authorities seized no heroin in 1998, 0.7 kilogram in 1999, 2.9 kilograms in 2000, and no heroin in 2001.
The number of heroin-related federal sentences in North Carolina remained low and ranked far behind the number of sentences for cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine in FY2000. The number of heroin-related federal sentences fluctuated from FY1996 to FY2000, according to USSC data. There were 18 heroin-related sentences in FY1996, 7 in FY1997, 28 in FY1998, 16 in FY1999, and 5 in FY2000.
Heroin purity at the retail level in North Carolina is relatively high and heroin prices have been stable for several years. The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation reports that heroin purity ranges from 25 to 70 percent. At the street level, heroin is sold in "bindles," small pieces of aluminum foil or cellophane that contain one-tenth gram or less. According to local law enforcement authorities, a bindle sold for $25 to $35 in 2001. Bindles typically are stamped with a logo or a brand name, including spider webs, scorpions, Aleve, JADA, and Tommy Hilfiger. Heroin distributors in North Carolina also sell heroin in "bundles"--10 bindles packaged together. A heroin bundle generally sells for $200 in North Carolina.
There are isolated incidents of heroin-related violence in North Carolina. Heroin abusers generally commit nonviolent property crimes to support their habits; however, heroin distributors sometimes engage in violence to protect their turf or settle outstanding debts. In June 2001 one or more heroin dealers allegedly beat a Greensboro resident to death over money he owed to them for heroin, according to the Greensboro Police Department.
Opium is not cultivated nor is heroin produced in North Carolina. Most of the heroin available in North Carolina is produced in South America; some heroin produced in Mexico also is available.
African American and Caucasian criminal groups based in North Carolina transport heroin into the state primarily in private vehicles. These criminal groups travel to heroin distribution centers such as New York, Philadelphia, and Miami, or they meet suppliers at rest stops along interstates in North Carolina and Virginia to purchase several bundles of heroin. Law enforcement authorities report that heroin commonly is transported into Durham, located close to I-85. Some heroin remains in Durham for local distribution, and some is transported daily from Durham into at least four other cities in North Carolina by teams consisting of an African American male and an African American female. These teams travel in private vehicles to Wilson, Rocky Mount, Fayetteville, and Greenville to deliver heroin to local dealers. In Wilmington where heroin is prevalent in the city's low-income housing projects, law enforcement officers report that African American heroin dealers travel to New York in private vehicles every 5 to 7 days to purchase 7 to 10 bundles of heroin, which they transport into Wilmington.
Heroin sometimes is transported into North Carolina using package delivery services, buses, and passenger trains. In February 2001, law enforcement authorities in Greensboro seized 900 grams of heroin and arrested a Caucasian male who arrived in Greensboro on a passenger train from New York. In October 2000, federal law enforcement officials seized 700 grams of heroin at a package delivery facility in Memphis, Tennessee. The package was sent from Panama and was addressed to a residence in Charlotte. Anecdotal reporting from law enforcement officials indicates that couriers on buses also transport heroin into North Carolina from cities in northeastern states.
Mexican criminal groups that primarily transport powdered cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine into North Carolina sometimes transport relatively small amounts of heroin into the state. They usually conceal it among legitimate goods and transport it in tractor-trailers along with shipments of other illicit drugs. Mexican criminal groups also transport heroin concealed in false compartments in private vehicles.
Heroin abusers sometimes transport small amounts of the drug into North Carolina for their own use. The Nags Head Police Department, in response to the NDIC National Drug Threat Survey 2001, reports that heroin abusers travel by private vehicle to Virginia to purchase personal-use quantities of the drug.
North Carolina also is a transit state for heroin destined for other areas, primarily northeastern states. In May 2000 the North Carolina State Highway Patrol arrested two Hispanic individuals traveling on I-95 and seized 1.0 kilogram of heroin that was concealed under the back seat of their vehicle. The heroin was being transported from Miami to New Jersey. According to 2000 Operation Jetway data, federal law enforcement authorities seized 2.22 kilograms of heroin from a passenger's luggage on a commercial bus that had arrived in Fayetteville from Miami and was destined for New York.
Wholesale distribution of heroin is limited in North Carolina. African American, Caucasian, and Mexican criminal groups transport heroin into North Carolina in relatively small amounts. They then sell the drug to African American, Caucasian, and Hispanic gang members and local independent dealers who sell the drug at the retail level. In a small number of communities, these African American, Caucasian, and Mexican criminal groups sell heroin only to their own ethnic group because they perceive others to be untrustworthy.
At the retail level African American, Caucasian, and Hispanic gang members and local independent dealers sell heroin at open-air drug markets and in homes, businesses, low income housing projects, and parking lots. Law enforcement authorities report that heroin is sold on a limited basis to teenagers and young adults at raves and dance clubs. The Wilmington Police Department, in response to the NDIC National Drug Threat Survey 2001, reports that African American dealers sell heroin at open-air drug markets in low income neighborhoods. In more affluent areas local independent dealers frequently sell heroin indoors. Law enforcement officers in Durham report that retail quantities of heroin are frequently sold from several local businesses including small independent recording studios that may be fronts for distributing heroin.
End of page.