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Black tar heroin increases in Kern County; addicts speak out in hopes of awareness

Posted at 8:40 PM, Jul 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-10 18:24:15-04

Some of the black tar heroin user in Kern County told The Now’s Bakersfield reporter Tori Cooper that it's a high like none other, but most of the addicts also said they wanted out of their addiction.

Cooper took an in depth look into how widespread the black tar heroin issue is in Kern County and what’s being done to stop it.

The heroin addicts included in this piece chose to remain anonymous for the purposes of this story and they hoped that by sharing openly one less person chooses the black tar heroin path.

Cooper sat in as one 31-year-old heroin addict prepared to shoot up for his daily high.

“You’d measure it out or put it in a spoon, a can anything you can cook it on and add water to it, dissolve it really well then throw a cotton in there for a filter. Then draw it up, tie off if you are hitting a vein or just stick it in your arm if you are going to muscle it,” anonymous heroin user said.

Cooper asked heroin user, “Ben” as she called him throughout the interview to describe the feeling of heroin. “Within seconds you feel it, you feel like a rush of warmth coming over you from your arms or wherever you are hitting up to heart, to your brain, anything you are upset about or depressed about just doesn't seem as important,” Ben said.

The United State is in the middle of an opioid crisis that is becoming progressively worse, including right here in Kern County. “We’ve seen a significant increase in black tar heroin, for example in 2013 we seized less than a pound of heroin, last year we seized over 35 pounds,” Drug Enforcement Administration Representative Bob Beris said.

Heroin addict Ben is also right at the center of the issue.

“So how many times a day do you shoot up would you say?” The Now’s Tori Cooper asked heroin user Ben.

“Like four to six to as many as I can ya know,” Ben said.

71 people in Kern County died from opioid use in 2017 and 165 people overdosed on heroin according to the California Department of Public Health. Ben alone knows over 20 people who died from overdosing on heroin and he says the issue is surprisingly more widespread as compared to recent years in Kern County, “I’ve ran into kids in high school that are already doing it.”

Ben has spent time behind bars on drug charges before along with 2 other heroin addicts Cooper spoke to. Cooper also wanted to know how all of the black tar heroin was getting into Kern County.

“We know black tar heroin in produced in Mexico and it’s smuggled into the United States through the southwest border,” Beris of the Drug Enforcement Administration said.

The Drug Enforcement Administration says Mexico and Afghanistan are both leading producers in heroin, but as it makes it way to Kern County it lands right in the hands of drug dealers, prostitutes and becomes linked to crimes.

Ben said the hot spot for heroin hustling and a cheap fix is also not far, “On Union, a gram is sometimes $50 if you can get it at the right price.”

To an outsider Union Avenue may just look like another street in Bakersfield but for addicts like Ben it operates differently. He said you can trade almost anything  to get your fix of heroin, “People they’ve given up everything else just to use heroin that they wish they didn't, you know they didn't want to have to sell their car, sell the clothes on their back or turn to prostitution.”

Ben said that's how desperate people get at times when trying to avoid the pain of sleepless nights, diarrhea, vomiting and anxiety attacks that comes with the heroin withdrawals, “It was just an extreme circumstance that they had to do that.”

There is also a methadone clinic on the corner of Union and Adams Street where many addicts go to try to get off heroin, but Ben said many like him turn back to Union Avenue hot spots because of tolerance issues, “You don’t get sick as often and as much but you still have to use on top of it just to not feel sick.”

Ben said he wants out of his addiction and he just hopes that by sharing his story one less person chooses a path towards heroin and people find other ways to cope in Kern County, “Help them in any other way besides giving them heroin if they need help.”

After the interview Ben told Cooper he plans to stop doing heroin as soon as possible so that he can be back in his daughters life.

The Drug Enforcement Administration said the increase of heroin is also due to economic reasons, because when opioid pills become expensive and or harder to get, the price of heroin outweighs the pill form creating more heroin addicts in Kern County.

If you are a heroin addict seeking help with your addiction in Kern County you can contact Legacy Village LLC at 661-846-2745.