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Posted on Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Experts: Washtenaw County's heroin problem only beginning

By Kyle Feldscher

More dealers on the street, more opioid prescription pills and a more casual attitude among those who try the drug have led to heroin use becoming a deadly problem in southeast Michigan.

Police and medical officials are growing concerned — and frustrated — with the spread of one of the most dangerous drugs known. In June alone, at least 10 people in Washtenaw County have been treated for suspected heroin overdoses, and two of those people have died.


The Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office routinely seizes heroin and then destroys it in criminal investigations. The question facing law enforcement now is how to slow the spread of the drug.

Photos courtesy of Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office

It’s not clear to experts what’s caused these deadly overdoses. Some officials in Michigan are warning about the return of fentanyl, a toxic chemical produced in laboratories that can be between 40 and 100 times stronger than morphine, being cut with heroin. Others speculate the heroin being sold on the streets now is simply purer than it has been in the past.

Regardless, two things are certain: The heroin epidemic in Washtenaw County continues to affect the community. And, to this point, it’s not exactly clear how to stop its spread.

“I think we’re at the beginning, not the end, of a trend,” said Bruce Thomson, an addiction counselor with Thomson Solutions in Ann Arbor. “We’re in for some real tough times.”

A Pill Problem Turns To Powder

Heroin usage across the country is on an upward trend, correlating with an increase in the usage of opioid prescription pills such as OxyContin and Vicodin, said Rich Isaacson, special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Detroit office.

“The fastest-growing substance abuse problem in our society for the last seven or eight years is misuse of prescription drugs and opiate painkillers,” he said. “What we have seen is, as non-medical use of prescription opiate products increases, that has directly led to an increase of heroin use at the same time.”

Many heroin users started off using prescription painkillers. However, switching to smack from pills like OxyContin and Vicodin often comes down to simple economics.

Linda Thomson, an addiction and recovery therapist and Bruce Thomson’s wife, said people who are addicted to pain pills will quickly deplete their funds, but their need for opiates only grows. Then, they find they can get hits of heroin for a fraction of the cost.

“The biggest thing is they get on these pain pills and those are $50 to $80 a pill on the street,” she said. “Eventually, they find out heroin is only $5, and they switch.”

Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. David Archer, who works out of Ypsilanti Township, said the eastern part of the county is a destination for heroin addicts.

Archer said he knows of one man, a heroin addict who had numerous contacts with deputies, who traveled from Jackson on a regular basis to Ypsilanti Township. Why? Because the heroin being sold in Ypsilanti Township is cheaper and a better product than he could find in his area.

“That should tell people a lot. People are driving from Jackson to get heroin here because it’s cheaper and a better product,” Archer said.

The Slippery Slope

The more the heroin spreads, the greater the effect the drug has on the community — not only in overdoses but also in crimes against other citizens.

The heroin addiction is a beast that constantly needs to be fed. Even if the drug has dropped to bargain-basement prices, that’s still a constant flow of cash an addict needs to be able to produce.

Linda Thomson said that it usually starts with addicts selling their own possessions — computers, televisions, anything that people will buy. When all of that’s gone, an addict will usually turn to petty theft, mostly from family, friends and those closest to them.

After that comes crimes such as home invasion and burglary. It comes as no surprise to police officers when they find out a crime was committed by someone trying to raise money to feed a drug addiction — indeed, it’s been said that the underlying cause of many theft crimes in Washtenaw County is heroin.

“Anecdotally, I 100 percent believe we have seen an increase in theft crime, and will continue to see an increase, in direct correlation to opioid use,” Bruce Thomson said.

With that kind of demand, it’s no surprise to learn there are more street-level dealers in Ypsilanti Township than in years past. The influx of street dealers has been disturbing and frustrating to deal with, Archer said.

Time and again, law enforcement and addiction specialists point to opioid prescription painkillers as the biggest reason why heroin addiction continues to grow. What’s even more disturbing is the ease with which some people transition into heroin usage.

The Thomsons said they’ve both had clients who simply decided heroin sounded like a good idea.

“'I was doing such-and-such and a friend of mine suggested we try heroin’ - it is that causal for a lot of kids,” Bruce Thomson said. “’I just thought I’d try it.’ It has become a much more casual event in the life of young people.”

Deadly Important Questions, But No Answers

The fact that people are dying of suspected heroin overdoses doesn’t come as a surprise when usage of the deadly drug is increasing. What troubles investigators is the lack of an explanation for why heroin overdoses and deaths are increasing.

In Washtenaw County, 10 possible heroin overdoses have been reported in June, and eight of those overdoses came in two days.

Two of those suspected overdoses resulted in the deaths of a 27-year-old man and a 30-year-old man. Both of those cases are open pending toxicology reports.

Media reports have circulated about a 20-fold increase in heroin overdoses in the Downriver area of southeast Michigan, possibly due to a strain of the drug with the appropriately-morbid name Black Shadow. The possibility that scares many professionals is the presence of fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a toxic drug cooked up in laboratories that the Thomsons say can be between 40 and 100 times more powerful than morphine. For comparison’s sake, heroin is about two to four times as strong as morphine.

“The tiniest amount of that will kill you dead,” Bruce Thomson said. “And yet, this stuff is being sold on the street.”

A Canadian advisory warning about the spread of fentanyl stated some dealers are selling the drug as heroin or in pill form, purported to be a different type of pill. The advisory connected cases in Ontario, Quebec, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

In Metro Detroit, police and health officials get especially nervous about the mention of fentanyl — not too long ago, the drug was responsible for about 300 overdose deaths in the area.

However, the problem could potentially be quite the opposite.

“In our most recent analysis, we have not found any new adulterants in the heroin we’ve seized over the last six months,” Isaacson said, allowing that something could have changed in the drug supply in the last month.

Heroin is often mixed with additives — such as caffeine, anti-malarial medicine, laxatives, over-the-counter painkillers, lactose or dextrose — in order to decrease the potency of the drug and make it more profitable for the dealers, Bruce Thomson said. The less amount of pure heroin used means more product can be sold to addicts.

However, if the drugs aren’t cut as heavily and more pure heroin makes its way into an addict’s hands, the result can be deadly.

“If someone screws up and they don’t cut it sufficiently, the heroin is more pure than you’re used to and it can have an opioid effect,” Bruce Thomson said. “That’s the cutting down of bodily functions, and the key one is breathing.”

Isaacson said the possibility of stronger and more pure heroin coming into southeast Michigan could possibly be an explanation for recent overdoses.

“Black tar heroin is the most common type of heroin and we haven’t seen it here (in southeast Michigan) very often,” he said. “It could be an explanation, that people are coming across new heroin and that could be leading to some of these issues.”

What frustrates investigators is that it isn’t clear yet. It’s hard to attack the spread of fentanyl, or a more pure batch of heroin, when there isn’t clear evidence of a cause.

Saline police indicated the 27-year-old man who died in the city on June 7 overdosed after getting out of rehab. The man who died in Ypsilanti had heroin and a large amount of alcohol in his system. Toxicology screens are being done on both men, but until those are finished, there still won’t be answers in Washtenaw County.

As with most things in life, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle — a combination of pure heroin and dangerous additives seems likely, Archer said.

“Street dealers are trying to make more money and they cut the product that they get, or they’re getting a more potent heroin product,” he said. “I think it’s a combination of probably both.”

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 2:48 a.m.

Where is HLS to stop the importation of heroin? All of it gets smuggled across our borders cause customs isn't finding/stopping it. Do they need more funding or what ? Do they really want to stop all of it I wounder, seems like if they really wanted to they could do a better job.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 2:40 p.m.

I want to thank Mindfulness for presenting data to illustrate the enormous tragedy and drain that addiction is to society. I wanted to discuss incarceration. What first and truly destroys dignity and costs lives is addiction. If lying, stealing, and being eaten alive unto the face of death does not deter a person once addicted, threat of incarceration will not add much to it. At that point treatment is the only realistic hope and is no guarantee at that. There are a considerable number of persons that suggest that addiction can occur in a "harmed no one" isolated manner without consideration of cost to society in healthcare and law enforcement, not mentioning emotional impact to those who love, care and depend on the addict as a member of their families. People who can say 'let the stupid people kill themselves' lack the imagination that this could happen to someone they really care about, assuming they have developed to the point where they care about anyone but themselves or their own drug supply. No man is a island rings true here. Incarceration? Execute the suppliers. Seemingly, why don't we have any protection? Corruption at the highest levels. I suspect there is an attitude that drug availability is used as a subtle means of scouring away the undesirable lower class and more than just the dealers are getting rich by it. And don't dare blemish the clean and holy status of marijuana and alcohol by mentioning them in the same breath as heroin. All in all, the paramount point, not presented often enough in these discussions, is the destruction of society.

Michelle Pierson

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 1:37 p.m.

I would like to support getting this drug off of the can I help?

Chase Ingersoll

Mon, Jul 1, 2013 : 12:56 p.m.

Portugal method.


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 2:49 a.m.

Good question and no answers


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 1:11 p.m.

Countries that have a rational drug policy have stopped the growth of this problem, don't have much of the crime and can spend lots of money on drug addiction support as they do not have to spend hundreds of millions on enforcement (police, attorneys, courts and prisons). Why we keep doing the same things that are bankrupting us and expecting different results for decades is hard to understand.


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 2:52 a.m.

Its like to keep the country in control or an excuse to lock up a 1/4 of the people and take all of their rights away. Isn't it funny how the war on drugs Nixon kicked off came after civil right victories in the 1960's were everybody was to be treated equal.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 12:57 p.m.

Don't want to die from a herion overdose? How about not dong the drug.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 11:42 a.m.

It is a sad commentary on our entire society that people are so bored with day-to-day living they must find an escape or a trial that is only self-destructive. There is so much to do, so much to learn, so much to explore in our world that drugs make absolutely no sense. I say give addicts all the drugs they want, and make it 100% pure, on the caveat that they use it all in one shot at the distribution facility, get their high and get it over with.


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 2:54 a.m.

we need a vapor lounge like Toronto has

Woman in Ypsilanti

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 6:49 p.m.

All drugs or just heroin? You see, I find that doing drugs is very social and I would like to continue to do my drugs in a social environment. I mean, I meet friends at the coffee shop all of the time so we can do our favorite drug, caffeine, together.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 9:51 a.m.

Wait ... you mean when Nancy Reagan told us all to "just say no to drugs," that didn't fix the problem?


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 12:58 p.m.

No, but I think we should have followed Bill Clinton's lead and not inhaled marijuana.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 7:38 a.m.

Last time this issue came up I brought up a question about anti opiate medication. It was on Vanguard and it helps stop a person from dying of an overdose. It's an inhaled medicine. Mostly found in ER but some states are allowing people to get prescriptions. Is this something that Michigan can do too? It can save lives. Please don't delete this. On a more personal reaction note... WOW. I'm very naive about drugs. I was given, once, at the ER, Morphine for a migraine. It was horrible. I got so sick. I really hate those level of pain killers. But at least it did stop my pain. I can't imagine taking anything stronger. Gives me the willies just thinking about it. I'll stick with my over the counter meds, thank you.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 5:02 a.m.

We've built a Billion dollar power plant in Afghanistan of which the Taliban control 25% of the newly generated power which has enabled them to triple their poppy and heroin production with the added capability of irrigation. That means higher quality heroin and more of it so the motivation to cut it decreases with the added volume. Doesn't law enforcement read the papers? The reason folks are doing the drug is because life sucks. If folks had good jobs and leading a productive life they wouldn't be seeking an escape from reality. Then there's the issue of enforcement vs. treatment. Even if an addict wants to get treatment, they get arrested and sent to jail. there's no money in treatment but billions of dollars in enforcement. Overtime, promotions, prosecutors becoming Governors or Attorney Generals, grants, jails, judges, and even the drug councilor's get their business from the courts. And the system keeps making it tougher for poverty stricken folks to cope. Take away the aid, decreased opportunities for education and training, the whole system is a joke and law enforcement, the justice system, and the legislature are all CONTRIBUTING to the problem because there's no money in actually RESOLVING the problem. Here's a question....why don't we drug test police officer, prosecutors, teachers, judges, and legislatures? Because they have the POWER but can do the most damage to our way of life, and in fact are.


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 2:57 a.m.

How come we can't stamp out drugs that are not grown in the states ? We got billions for wars overseas and rovers on Mars yet we neglect the homeland. Or is it just a way to need more police funding and a way to lock up some of the people ?


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 9:06 a.m.

Can you provide a link to the billion dollar plant?


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 1:59 a.m.

I applaud.Kyle Feldscher for taking on this subject which is controversial and complex. As a 37-year resident of our county, and a professional member of the Ann Arbor community, I realize the seriousness of drug use nationally, the high incarceration rate nationally, and the cost of incarceration for our states and our federal government. Perhaps several solid facts will help us understand the seriousness of this national problem as it relates to drub use, death of users, and the cost of incarcerating drug users who have harmed no one, touched no one, but have been imprisoned as a result of their addiction and/or addictive behavior. Nationally, lifetime mariiuana use among high-school seniors is up 21 percent since 2008. Between 2008 and 2009, poisoning deaths among teens increased 91 percent, with most of those being caused by overdoses of prescription painkillers. Every day drugs kill over 365 Americans, more than any other preventable health problem. (You can do the math for a yearly count.) Drugs are linked to more ER visits and hospital admissions than any other single cause, 4.6 million of them in 2009, the most recent figures available. That was an 81 percent increase over 2004. Also, drugs are the number one cause of crime. In 2010, 85 percent of the U.S. prison population were incarcerated for crimes committed while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Sadly, our county ranks near the top among counties in the state as well as nationally in terms of drug use, incarceration. and drug-related deaths per capita. My question: How many more lives must be ruined, how many more deaths must occur, how many more of our county's youth must lose their sense of dignity (if not their life) through incarceration under Michigan's mandatory sentencing sentencing guidelines These guidelines do not recognize addictive behavior as a possible cause for braking the law. It's time to act.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 2 p.m.

I want to thank Mindfulness for presenting data to illustrate the enormous tragedy and drain that addiction is to society. I wanted to adjust the aim on incarceration. What first and truly destroys dignity and costs lives is the addiction. If lying, stealing, and being eaten alive to the point of death does not deter a person once addicted, threat of incarceration will not add much to it. At that point treatment is the only realistic hope and is no guarantee at that. There are a considerable number of persons (including yourself?) that imply that addiction can occur in a "harmed no one" isolated manner. You somehow do this while you cite the cost to society in healthcare and law enforcement, not mentioning emotional impact to those who love, care and depend on the addict as a member of their families. People who can say 'let the stupid people kill themselves' lack the imagination that this could happen to someone they really care about, assuming they have developed to the point where they care about anyone but themselves. No man is a island rings true here. Incarceration? Execute the suppliers. Seemingly why don't we have any protection? Corruption at the highest levels. I suspect there is an attitude that drug availability is a subtle means of scouring away the undesirable lower class, more than just the dealers that are getting rich. One small thing, you got away without a landslide of comments on your blemishing the clean and holy status of marijuana when you mention it in a discussion about heroin. All in all, you present the paramount point, not presented often enough in these discussions. Thanks.

Cendra Lynn

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 1:39 a.m.

Do your research, Kyle. Google heroin-most-dangerous-drug and see the wildly varied opinions. You have a duty not to spread incorrect or unsubstantiated information,


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 1:36 a.m.

It's ironic there was a Lewis Jewelers "We Buy Gold" ad on the left when I read this story online. The heroin addict who robbed our house last year sold stolen jewelry from various local heists at Lewis, presumable to fund his heroin addiction. He's in prison. To their credit, Lewis aided the police and us.

Nicholas Urfe

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 12:12 a.m.

People snort the stuff now. They don't have to shoot it up. That is one of the big dangers. It makes it attractive to a much larger audience who would not initially inject the stuff. But the snorting is only temporary. They build up a tolerance and can't get their dose snorting, so they end up shooting it.

Bill Wilson

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 9:59 p.m.

Nick, I love ya buddy, but you, whether you know it or not, are George Costanza: consistently 180 degrees on the wrong side. Next time you say something, do like he did when he got his Yankees job: do the opposite of what your brain tells you to do.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 1:15 a.m.

Many users smoke heroin because smoking it results in fewer fatalities (delivers a lower dose) than either injecting or snorting do.

Milton Shift

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 12:16 a.m.

And the reason they can't get their dose snorting is because of the cost. Needle use usually begins due to economics - far higher bioavailability, far more "bang" for your buck.

Tim Hornton

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 11:48 p.m.

If you sell this stuff to kids then in my opinion you should be put to death ASAP. If you sell it to an adult, no big deal, they should Know better and all that treatment doesn't work for them anyway. If an adult wants to waste their life on drugs fine BUT don't have our tax dollars pay for them being stupid. Save the money for teenagers and maybe young adults.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 11:45 p.m.

This has nothing to do with the U.S. pulling out of Afghanistan. Where over 80% of the supply in heroin originates. And the A2 dealer chain begins. And will soon end along with their future profit. Nope. Absolutely no connection to foreign policy and supply dumping and drug overdose here.


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 3:04 a.m.

Don't be shock if a few troops are sneaking the stuff in to make a quick buck....does customs inspect every plane entering the USA, nope.

Basic Bob

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 3:47 a.m.

"nothing to do with the U.S. pulling out" Correct! Heroin production was nearly eradicated by the Taliban. It returned when the U.S. ***invaded*** Afghanistan. It might actually drop when the U.S. pulls out and the Taliban resumes control of the tribal areas. "And the A2 dealer chain begins" Incorrect! All that heroin from Afghanistan goes to Russia, Iran, India, and China. Ours comes from Mexico and Columbia. Please consult the CIA World Factbook for more information.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 12:47 a.m.

Pretty sure most US heroin comes from central/south America.

Tim Hornton

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 11:53 p.m.

Nuke that terrorist supply hole


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 10:27 p.m.

Portugal decriminalized drugs about five years ago and made it a medical problem. No further increase in addicts and addiction since.

shadow wilson

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 10:18 p.m.

I am a former opiate addict. I suggest for those interested to you tube Theodore Dalrymple.That is a pseudo name of Anthony Daniels a retired British psychiatrist. He has an interesting take on opiate addiction.His view and I agree is the mainstream thinking on opiate addiction is so distorted that it is now seen as some torturous unbearable thing requiring stealing and robbing allthat just to get a fix......I have been addicted, it aint that dramatic truthfully a bad cold is comparable and the flu is much much worse... The tragedy of opiate use is that one hot shot kills quickly.

shadow wilson

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 10:03 p.m.

Nice on the Bill Wilson..classy for those that don't know Wilson is the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous. Tramadol is as far as I know a synthetic opiate so you are simply continuing to use opiates. You did not almost die.In fact withdrawal from Pharmacy grade opiates would be more severe then street heroin which is not as potent due to being cut with other substances. MPope I feel for you. Maybe your kid is ok.You should just ask if he is using. The truth likely is that our stories his and mine are probably similar. I injected heroin , Dilaudid, morphine on a daily basis for a number of years maybe 3 to 4 interspersing with other drugs. I am here to tell you withdrawal is minimal. Alcohol withdrawal can be life threatening and as such will be covered by insurance opiate withdrawal is not.Of course that does not help your situation ...there are services available to you anon nar anon

Bill Wilson

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 9:17 p.m.

Actually, My Doctor's exact quote: "I wouldn't say withdrawal ISN'T life-threatening." I have stenosis (severe) and occasionally am forced to take opiates: usually hydrocodone in 10 mg doses of 3 or more at a time. Once, not knowing what would happen, I decided enough was enough, and flushed a couple hundred Norco's down the toilet. I got so sick that I nearly died. Heroin & oxycodone would only be worse. Now, when I want off of them, I taper, using tramadol.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 7:04 p.m.

over-dramatize? hardly. when we see him (almost never, these days) he says he's fine. your 'been there' experience doesn't speak to what we have viewed as our kid's reality. i wish he fit your description. i really do.

shadow wilson

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 3:38 p.m.

Sorry about your kid. However I stand by what I said withdrawal from opiates is certainly not life threatening and absolutely not as dangerous as the flu , it is about as debilitating as a bad cold....and it only lasts a few days......don't try to over dramatize and don't let your kid if he is not clean over dramatize I know I have been there.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 7:41 a.m.

my son is a heroin addict. as a kid and teen, he had a few bad colds. and once or twice he had the flu. heroin addiction isn't worse? LIE.

Milton Shift

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 10:04 p.m.

I'm not exaggerating - BASE jumping really is more dangerous than using heroin. 1.7% of BASE jumpers die every year, a number even greater than the 1.5% of heroin addicts that die. "At the 33-year follow-up, the total number of deaths was 282 over 581 subjects (48.5%), and the annual mortality rate was 1.5%." "The overall annual fatality risk for all object types during the year 2002 was estimated at about one fatality per 60 participants."

Milton Shift

Wed, Jun 26, 2013 : 10:43 a.m.

According to the research I cited, 98.5% of heroin addicts live to see the next year. I think they have plenty of time to consider the risks they're taking.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 7 p.m.

your comparison was lame. drinking and smoking DO kill a lot of people. but a drinker or smoker has time to consider the implications. drinking and smoking doesn't present the same immediacy and crisis as does heroin. but we get it. to you, heroin is no problem. rightee-o.

Milton Shift

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.

What if there are only 700 heroin addicts, but 70,000,000 smokers and 170,000,000 drinkers? (If you want to consider the broader social impact... Smoking and drinking kill far more than heroin. I spoke of the immediate risk the activity itself poses to the individual.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 7:35 a.m.

what if there are only 7 base jumpers in this county, but 700 heroin users? percentages aren't persons.

Milton Shift

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 9:55 p.m.

So what I am reading here is that there are two main problems: 1) The quality of the heroin is ambiguous at best, the potency unpredictable, leading to health issues and overdoses. 2) The cost of supporting an addiction is high enough that addicts invariably have to turn to crime to maintain the habit. Legalize it, dispense it under the eye of a licensed pharmacist, and these problems will largely disappear. Look up how much a pound of heroin sells for in Afghanistan, and how much it sells for here in the US. The cost is almost entirely the result of prohibition, the danger of bringing it to the market. The biggest junkies would be spending pennies a day if it weren't for that. And there would be no overdoses due to unpredictable potency, no rotting veins due to bacterial contamination of heroin, or whatever else is an issue these days. Heroin addiction is a health problem, and the heroin market is a problem because it is *UNREGULATED*. Until it is brought out of the shadows, it will remain this way. Why oppose legalizing heroin? Is it because it would suddenly be available everywhere? Well, it already is. Drive to a bad part of town and it will be offered to you, the dealers recognize the behavior of someone from the suburbs on the prowl for drugs. So should heroin remain illegal because if it were cheap and legal people would do more of it? No, heroin users will commit whatever crimes necessary to get however much heroin they feel they need - it's an inelastic market. Prices do not affect consumption, they only determine the level of desperation and frequency of criminal behavior. And anyone that chooses to do heroin just because it's been legalized will probably kill themselves regardless by doing something even more dangerous like base jumping.

Red Barber

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 11:02 p.m.

Well said; and logical.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 8:57 p.m.

If you think the heroin epidemic is just starting, you have been living with your head in the sand. My daughter knew addicts, who openly shot up outside Chelsea High School. That was 8 years ago.

Homeland Conspiracy

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 6:59 p.m.

The Spoils of War: Afghanistan's Multibillion Dollar Heroin Trade by Michel Chossudovsky History of the Golden Crescent Drug trade It is worth recalling the history of the Golden Crescent drug trade, which is intimately related to the CIA's covert operations in the region since the onslaught of the Soviet-Afghan war and its aftermath. Prior to the Soviet-Afghan war (1979-1989), opium production in Afghanistan and Pakistan was directed to small regional markets. There was no local production of heroin. (Alfred McCoy, Drug Fallout: the CIA's Forty Year Complicity in the Narcotics Trade. The Progressive, 1 August 1997). The Afghan narcotics economy was a carefully designed project of the CIA, supported by US foreign policy. As revealed in the Iran-Contra and Bank of Commerce and Credit International (BCCI) scandals, CIA covert operations in support of the Afghan Mujahideen had been funded through the laundering of drug money. "Dirty money" was recycled –through a number of banking institutions (in the Middle East) as well as through anonymous CIA shell companies–, into "covert money," used to finance various insurgent groups during the Soviet-Afghan war, and its aftermath: To read more go here


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 5:58 p.m. The above link is from the CDC. Acetyl fentanyl is a lab mix none FDA approved substance. It acts much like the prescription version, but is not legal and different. The link describes the health alert issued by the CDC.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 5:36 p.m.

Heroin has been an epidemic for years in Livingston County...but they've been in such denial about the drug problem in such out of the way places as Howell and Pinckney it just got worse.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 9:01 p.m.

You are absolutely correct! Chelsea has had a huge problem for hooked on heroin from some very prominent Chelsea families!


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 6:02 p.m.

Really good point. From what I know, you are absolutely right. Sad.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 4:37 p.m.

I'm told that, in terms of drug use, there is no difference between Washtenaw County and Wayne County based upon per capita drug usage. Can anyone at, or any of you, the readership, refute this? If this statement is true, those of us who think of Detroit as being drug ridden should rightfully be concerned about our County, the safety of our residents, and our youth.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 4:20 p.m.

Kyle, I'd appreciate a piece on strategies for conversations with teens on these types of drugs - any local experts you could interview?


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 3:52 p.m.

As a retired pharmacist, I would be willing to prepare a presentation targeting Ann Arbor high school students.

Kyle Feldscher

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 8:24 p.m.

a2phiggy - Great question. I'll take a look at it tomorrow when I return to the office and see what I can turn up. I think that'd be very helpful.

Melissa Richter

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 5:48 p.m. An excellent free series started by the late great Ron Harrison and continued on by Dawn Farms.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 4:13 p.m.

WholeDude - Whole Freedom : Thanks for sharing this story. I have suggested in the past, and I will continue to suggest that this story is not simply about crime. At a basic level, it is about health, and the well-being of man. People using products derived from opium often experience side-effects such as loss of appetite, and constipation. Family members and friends can notice changes in appearance and changes in eating behavior. This is a medical problem that is related to the nature of man's conditioned existence. Man by his very nature seeks total freedom in his thoughts and imagination. In reality, he exists because of his dependence. So, there is perpetual tension between the desire for freedom and the need for dependence. The use of chemical substances that have effects on mind represents an unrestricted desire for freedom. The problem is not easy to solve by imposing external restrictions upon man's desire for freedom. Man has the natural ability to exercise self-restraint, self-control, and self-regulate his own behavior and actions. Man has the freedom to be the Master of his mind, intellect, his desires, and his sensory experience. I would suggest that man must not stop his quest for freedom until he finds Whole Freedom, the Freedom to take charge of his body, mind, and spirit.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 7:23 p.m.

Is it a medical problem? Yeah, and I'm sympathetic to those afflicted. Trying it once and getting hooked is a possibility, I suppose. Treatment is the humane thing to provide, and yes, it's cheaper to treat an addict than to throw him (or her) in jail, and treatment should even be provided by the government, as the addict hardly will have insurance. That said, am I sad if an addict dies? Not really. I sympathise more with the family and friends that mourn them, but face it, Darwin explained 'survival of the fittest' back in the 1800s...

Honest Abe

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 3:49 p.m.

Please get rid of the sign holders begging for money at the intersections and exit ramps! There is now a guy who stands at Washtenaw and Golfside who claims he is a veteran. I stopped and engaged in friendly conversation and asked him where he served and what his MOS was. I also curiously asked to see his VA card and or Military ID (this guy is somewhat younger and should be in possession of at least one of these items) but it didn't matter because he asked me "What is MOS?". When he said that, I knew he was not a veteran of any kind. Even though he is wearing a military hat with 'scrambled eggs' on the bill of the hat. Finally he told me is was interested in cash and cash only and he needed to get back to holding his sign. The warm weather is just beginning. These heroin addicts LOVE standing at the intersections and exit ramps! Again, something has to be done to get them off those spots!


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 8:17 a.m.

Great idea. The only problem is that there are not enough residents in A2 with your mindset to make it happen...yet. As property crimes continue to increase and property values decline I think you'll see some minds changing about street people and panhandlers and the relationship to crime.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 11:32 p.m.

I don't doubt the guy wasn't a vet. But, like craig, I never heard the term "MOS" until talking with other vets after I was out of the Navy. Today, although I know that "MOS" equates to a rate, I still don't know what "MOS" is short for. Please don't tell me because it's on the bucket list of things I don't want to and don't need to know (unless of course, I'm standing on an exit ramp).


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 9:38 p.m.

Cornelius . . . is correct. Ignore them. Stop trying to save the world.

Honest Abe

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 7:29 p.m.

Most are drug addicts or alcoholics. If they were truly homeless and hungry, there is plenty of help available that would eliminate you from having to stand at a corner or exit ramp. Harmless? That is where you are wrong! This guy I was talking to, had 'track marks' on his arms and it was evident he was an IV drug user! Also, addicts are behind a lot of crime! Everything from burglary, shoplifting, larceny...etc. Also, believe it or not, beggars such as these can make you property value decline! I own a rental property in Pittsfield Village, off of US-23. I had an open house with a young couple who landed jobs here. They were from out of town, and when they arrived the first words were 'After hearing all the raves about Ann Arbor, we were very surprised to see people holding cardboard signs a 1/2 mile from where we want to raise a family'. Their first visit and impression began with seeing a junky standing at the exit ramp. After this incident, I drove to the ramp and tried to guide this guy to a place to help him. He came right out and said he wanted cash, and cash only and he was a user! Straight up told me that! So you're wrong,Cornelius, you are very wrong!

cornelius McDougenschniefferburgenstein jr. 3 esq.

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 7:07 p.m.

1.police do take highway beggars to jail.2 not all highway beggars are addicts.3 why do you care?ignore them pretend they are a signpost,they are causing no harm.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 6:46 p.m.

I was also in the Navy and never heard of an MOS until many years later talking with other Vets. I am not saying the panhandler was a Vet, I don't know, just like I don't know if he was a heroin addict.

Honest Abe

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 5:04 p.m.

Even though you were in the Navy, I'm very surprised you never heard of 'MOS', because we sure knew about rates.

Honest Abe

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 4:59 p.m.

Great to know you are a former squid. I was in US Army. But yes, I asked his what his MOS or rating was! Does this clarify anything for you?


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 4:24 p.m.

I spent four years in the Navy...I never heard of "MOS". That's an army/air force term.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 3:41 p.m.

We have a mind set about drugs in this community that some are okay (marijuana) and cannot figure out why heroin use is up? We're sending the wrong message to our young people. I have been inside of the court rooms and seen how many people that have issues are also pot smokers. Ask any judge and they'll tell you the same thing. Next we'll find a medical reason to allow heroin............


Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 9:31 p.m.

Bob Bad idea to flush the Vicodin; you just introduced narcotics into the Huron River! And into the Ann Arbor water supply!

Woman in Ypsilanti

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 5:37 p.m.

You guys are wrong. I'll bet the heroin users were using caffeine long before they started using beer, cigarettes, and/or marijuana. This attitude that some drugs are ok and some aren't is just plain wrong. If we want to control a heroin problem, it is obvious that we must first shut down every coffee house, party store, and bar in town. No fun for anyone!

Rod Johnson

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 1:34 p.m.

Some drugs *are* OK.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 9:35 p.m.

Same thing after my surgery. I filled the prescription and had 25 Vicodin - I forget the strength. I only used one. I eventually flushed the rest.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 9:09 p.m.

No doubt heroin addicts started with beer and cigarettes. There is no cause/effect about the relationship between marijuana and heroin addiction.

Basic Bob

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 8:57 p.m.

No doubt these addicts started with beer. Just like mom and dad.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 6:15 p.m.

Just what I was thinking Mike. No doubt these addicts started with MJ. I am sure fairly soon we will hear the merits of medical heroin since it makes one feel much better than MJ does. With the opening of the "medical marijuana" joints (pun intended) it was predictable this would happen.

Angry Moderate

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 5:15 p.m.

Thankfully, correlation is not causation, and the marijuana smokers who happen to run into judges are not a representative sample.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 3:26 p.m.

1. The Thompsons are social workers--- not doctors or psychologists.2 MSW'a are in their practice with no other healthcare professionals according to their website. 2. Fentanyl is a drug that's been used in anesthesia and ICU's for many years under close observation. In prescribed patch form, it gives extreme comfort to people suffering with horrible pain of end stage cancer and other painful disease .Let's be careful to not create undue fear in the general public about a very necessary drug when prescribed and used appropriately. 3. Seems simplistic to blame prescribing doctors. People who abuse substances most often do not do so just because they were prescribed pain medication short term.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 7:55 p.m.

Several years ago, I had outpatient abdominal surgery. Before I left the hospital, one of the doctors asked if I wanted painkillers, and if I had a preference. I replied that the only painkiller I had ever taken for any reason was Vicodin. The doctor wrote a prescription for Vicodin. I returned home, and my spouse went to the pharmacy to get the prescription filled. Upon my spouse's return, I was presented with a bottle containing 80 ... yes, 80! ... Vicodin tablets. I was so nauseated from the anesthesia and the surgery, that I was afraid to take anything that night. The next day, I took two pills so I could sleep during the day, and the following day, I took a single pill, again so I could get some more sleep. Other than the three tablets, I didn't take any more Vicodin during my recovery. While it may be simplistic to blame the prescribing physicians, they do, as a group bear SOME responsibility in the matter. In my case, the physician provided nearly 27 times the amount of Vicodin I actually used during my recovery. Was it because the physician did not know how much pain I would experience? Was the physician not experienced in prescribing painkillers? Did the physician make a mistake in writing the order? Is an 80-pill prescription for Vicodin SOP? Is Vicodin not that good at relieving pain? What would have happened if I had taken all 80 Vicodin tablets (not at once, of course, but over the course of a few weeks or a month)? It may be simplistic, but unless they are stolen, prescription pills are only dispensed as the result of a written prescription. Prescribing physicians DO bear some responsibility here.

Basic Bob

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 3:37 p.m.

The "acetyl fentanyl" that is being mixed with heroin is cooked up in illegal labs. It is not the patch kind. I don't blame the doctors, but as a group they bear responsibility for the sudden increase in opiate addicts. Roughly 90% of opioid addicts are taking prescription pills.

Michigan Man

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 2:55 p.m.

With this unrelenting surge in heroin use in and around Ann Arbor, the city may need to relinquish is status as where the smartest people in America live. Quality of life just continues to trend downward in and around Ann Arbor. Can I be the only one who has come to this obvious conclusion?


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 6:04 p.m.

Yes, you are. I live in Ann Arbor. The quality of life is quite high.

Angry Moderate

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 5:14 p.m.

Oh please. Crime is lower than ever--much lower than it was decades ago. The people saying otherwise are police departments that like to whip up scary epidemics to justify their budgets. These "heroin is coming back!" articles have been published every 6 months for the last 20 years, but somehow it's a new resurgence every time.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 2:45 p.m.

Quote by Linda Thompson... "The biggest thing is they get on these pain pills and those are $50 to $80 a pill on the street," she said. "Eventually, they find out heroin is only $5, and they switch." Is this even close to being a true statement?

Kyle Feldscher

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 8:21 p.m.

Tesla- As I said to Billy earlier, that price estimate is consistent with what I've heard from multiple law enforcement and medical officials during the last year or so.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 3:33 p.m.

actually the street price of a SINGLE 30mg oxyctonin pill currently is 50-80 dollar a piece. that's per my close to 20 years of involvement in washtenaw county law enforcement ( don't believe me, Google it) . this heroin "epedemic" has been going on for decades and the fentanyl componet has been around for over five years. also like stated by someone else fentanyl is a legit prescription painkiller used for people who are often towards the end of their lives not something cooked up in a drug lab like the articles "expert" claims.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 3:09 p.m.

It's not even remotely close to true...well the part about the pill prices. Packs really do go for $5 to $10 each....which is why it's becoming such a problem.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 2:40 p.m.

""The biggest thing is they get on these pain pills and those are $50 to $80 a pill on the street," " Wrong wrong wrong and more wrong. When the pills are costing someone with a prescription less than $4 a pill...they only get flipped for $10-$20 a piece. I have never in my LIFE heard of a "pill" costing over $25 let alone $50....not even pure molly or any kind of fancy pharm. Because of that statement....anything else that guy says becomes suspect. How about instead of resorting to unnecessary hyperbole you just TELL PEOPLE THE's still pretty ugly without exaggeration.

Bill Wilson

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 9:32 p.m.

They're correct Billy. Got a friend who LOVES those things, and he says it's $1 per milligram on the street. 1$ per mg = 30 mg oxy @ $30 50$ = 50mg oxy @ $50 and so on....


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 11:41 p.m.

Well Kyle....they are wrong...not sure what else to tell you. Pills do NOT cost that much...oxys, vics, MDMA (which is then cut what god knows what too), adderall....none of those ever go above 20-25 a pill. Why would law enforcement have an accurate bead on the street price of drugs? Just because they "bust" people for them a couple times, or have a sting here and there? Their sampling of prices is both skewed and small...but that's not really the reason for the disparity. Law enforcement has a bad habit of trumping up the street value of drugs to make them sound like they're doing a bigger job than they really are. I have a feeling that's where that ridiculously exaggerated figure comes from. Someone said it once, and they've all been reading from the same script since because it sounds good.

Kyle Feldscher

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 8:21 p.m.

Billy- That estimate of $50-80 a pill is consistent with what I've been told by other medical and law enforcement officials during the past year or so when researching heroin issues and their causes in Washtenaw County.

shadow wilson

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 6:33 p.m.

Junkies/addicts convert these pills to liquid to inject hence the cost not to mention that addicts usually pony up......look at ciggarettes

Angry Moderate

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 5:12 p.m.

They're talking about 80mg OxyContins which, of course, are not comparable to a $5 single dose of heroin even though they're a single pill.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 2:30 p.m.

"The tiniest amount of that will kill you dead," Bruce Thomson said. "And yet, this stuff is being sold on the street." - As opposed to killing me alive? Hmmm

Rod Johnson

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 1:28 p.m.

Don't blame Ann Arbor. This kind of contentless snark is endemic on the internet.

Not from around here

Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 2:44 a.m.

ahhh there's that old old ann arbor elitism that the rest of the state hates. Who cares about people dying, proper syntax is all thats important here.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 2:25 p.m.

Fentanyl is not a "toxic chemical cooked up in a lab", it is a common drug used during anesthesia, twilight, or for substantial pain from advanced cancers or other medical conditions. How dealers are getting ahold of it, would be interesting to know...people sometimes get pain-patches with Fentanyl...but not pills that I've heard of.


Mon, Jun 24, 2013 : 7:16 p.m.

Ah - good to know...bathtub version of the drug would be nasty indeed.

shadow wilson

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 6:30 p.m.

Some of the fentanyl responsible for deaths in Detroit some years ago was made by "bathtub" chemists in Mexico.However you are correct to correct the oversimplification of the article.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 2:17 p.m.

Herione is old problem get your heads out of the sand and your arse.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 3:24 p.m.

lesmore....I was raised in Ypsi. I graduated in 82.I NEVER knew of anyone using heroin. Acid, mescaline,chrooms, pot, yes, but never heroin


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 2:05 p.m.

I had a friend who got hooked on heroin 50 years ago. When I saw him 20 years ago, his teeth were almost gone, his eyes were kind of blank, and he was on methadone for the millionth time. He had incredible potential as a writer and as a musician, but heroin took hold of him.

Dog Guy

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 1:43 p.m.

Dare to teach kids how to fish and they'll want to try fishing.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 3:19 p.m.

Dog Guy...Well said.You can add hunting and sport shooting as well.( yea, bring on the thumbs down,don't care ),


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 1:30 p.m.

This article should have included interviews with law enforcement and county health officials. The Thompsons are the only interviewees and there is no mention of their credentials, except that own a company that stands to profit from the reported crisis. The story would have been more credible with real statistics and interviews with other professionals. I'm sure that there is a drug problem in Washtenaw County, but most of the information provided in this story is hearsay and generalizations.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 1:37 p.m.

"...said Rich Isaacson, special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration's Detroit office..." "...Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office Sgt. David Archer, ..."

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 1:16 p.m.

Excellent article, @Kyle Feldscher! My father was the municipal judge for a small town at one point in his career and based on his experiences with the people that came through his court, he was of the opinion that 90% of all crime was related to drug users stealing to get money to buy illegal drugs. I've seen studies that indicate 98% is the correct number, so yes, the rise in home burglaries ("invasions") is directly tied to rising addiction levels, as the article asserts.

Kyle Feldscher

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 8:18 p.m.

Thanks for the kind words, Stephen. Much of the anecdotal stories I've heard from law enforcement sources would tend to go along with your father's experience.

Jonathan Blutarsky

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 7:27 p.m.

If it was just that simple!

Homeland Conspiracy

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 6:46 p.m.'s called Google.

Angry Moderate

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 5:09 p.m.

Wow, link to these studies?


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 1:13 p.m.

I'm so glad I have the freedom to say no to these drugs.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 12:39 p.m.

The basic problem is why people use drugs in the first place. Most young kids know it is bad for them and avoid them. So why are some kids so stupid about drugs? Ditto for cigarettes.

Not from around here

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 8:48 p.m.

Hey tdw, how about neither! My kids don't smoke or use drug and they don't play violent video games or a mirrad of other things I hear other parent complaign that there children do. Teach them the difference between right and wrong, good and bad and enforce it in your home and your kids wouldn't either. Good parenting and lot of love helps.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 4:03 p.m.

Peer pressure, bullying and numerous other influences make our youth do stupid things. I feel like pulling out a Jimmy Hendrix album and singing purple haze all over again. Sad state of affairs our children are in and again, I reiterate, where are the parents in all of this?


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 3:17 p.m.

AA...cigarettes are bad I know.But if you had a choice of your kid smoking cigarettes or shooting heroin which would you choose ?


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 2:49 p.m.

Yeah! It's only kids! All adults are perfect and none of them drink too much or do drugs....

Basic Bob

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 11:32 a.m.

It's not clear how to stop the spread of heroin addiction? Let me offer my non-expert opinion. Start by getting those synthetic opioids off the street. That is 90% of the problem. Stop the doctor shopping and get people with excess pills to stop hoarding or turn them in rather than leave them for a entrepreneurial relative to sell to their using buddies. The people who are already addicted to heroin will get enough of it and clean up, if they don't die first. Stay tough on those who end up in jail on drug or related charges. Offer them a chance to avoid prison by completing a treatment program and daily attendance at a twelve step program such as Narcotics Anonymous. The heroin problem will never go away, but it will remain at historically high levels.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 6:39 p.m.

What can be done about the legal drug pushers. The MD's whose livelyhood (40% of most doctor's incomes come from writing prescriptions...."ask your doctor" ha) depends upon writing prescriptions.

Basic Bob

Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 11:34 a.m.

Edit: NOT remain


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 11:03 a.m.

I don't think more law enforcement is the answer.


Sun, Jun 23, 2013 : 1:31 p.m.

Education is the answer. Early and often.