With the recent death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman (who passed away from a suspected heroin overdose on February 2, 2014), heroin has become a national topic of discussion. Leaving law enforcement officers in towns everywhere, even Laramie, keeping an ever-present eye open for the dangerous drug.

According to the American Medical Association, heroin use has doubled in the last five years in America and emergency rooms across the nation have seen close to 250,000 heroin related visits.

“Heroin has been non-existent in Albany County for 30 years, [but] now it is popping out of nowhere,” according to Laramie Under-Sheriff Robert Debree.

Health care providers and law enforcement officials say there are two speculated reasons for the rise of heroin use. Firstly, there are increased restrictions that make it harder to obtain and abuse prescription medication. Prescription pills are now designed to have anti-crushing properties that make it extremely hard to snort the medication, forcing the usual pill addict to seek a different high. Secondly, heroin is significantly cheaper than most prescription drugs.

According to Mark Holder, the Director of Behavioral Health, Oxycodone, a narcotic used to relieve pain, is $30 per pill. For that same amount, users can acquire six hits of heroin.

Heroin exists in three forms: Black Tar, China White and Mexican Brown. In Albany County, Mexican Brown and Black Tar are the most common. Photos, in order of heroin type, are below.

Black tar heroin, Albany County Sheriff's Department


China white heroin, Albany County Sheriff's Department


Mexican brown heroin, Albany County Sheriff's Department

Unlike users of methamphetamine and other drugs, heroin addicts are more reclusive and therefore difficult for authorities to apprehend. “The only reason we are seeing heroin in Laramie is because of [emergency medical responders] being called for overdoses. They [heroin addicts] are a very tight-knit group of people. We are only seeing a small portion of the heroin actually being sold and used in this community,” says Detective William Meyer, of the Laramie Police Department.

There are, however, some telltale signs that a person is using heroin. Users typically:

  • Have track marks on their extremities,
  • Avoid eye contact,
  • Have poor hygiene,
  • Exhibit extreme loss of motivation,
  • Nod when they speak,
  • Resort to stealing or borrowing money consistently

One of the growing concerns for law enforcement is an extremely dangerous, codeine-derivative drug called “Krokodile,” which can be passed off as heroin. Manufactured in Russia, Krokodile is 10 times stronger than morphine, which makes it immensely more addictive and lethal than heroin. Users of this drug generally die within 18 to 24 months.

Currently, there are no official reports of Krokodile in the Rocky Mountain region, but officers acknowledge that there are rumors of the drug's presence. Det. Meyer says the potency and chemistry of Krokodile make drug dealers more apt to pass it off as heroin: Det. William Meyer on Krodile passed as Heroin

If Laramie residents discover drug paraphernalia, officers warn residents not to touch it, because inadvertent exposure to the drug is highly probable. Authorities urge citizens to call a doctor or a treatment center if there is suspicion of heroin use among friends or family.

Ivinson Memorial Hospital offers a free crisis hotline, (307) 742- 0285, for residents who seek assistance and have questions about treatment options.

Albany County Sheriff's Department