WSAZ Investigates: The New Heroin
There is a new threat to your neighborhood and a new drug hitting the streets of Charleston. It places community members and first responders at risk.
Because it is so new, investigators still are not sure exactly what it is made of.
Police say it is a more dangerous form of heroin that they are calling purple heroin.
In a WSAZ exclusive, undercover detectives explain the process of trying to take drugs off the streets. Our WSAZ investigation started just weeks after police first saw purple heroin showing up in the city.
For months, NewsChannel 3's Jatara McGee has been riding along with undercover detectives with the Charleston Police Department's special enforcement unit, also known as the SEU.
In the middle of the night, with lights and sirens and guns drawn, the Charleston Police Department's SEU searches a home for drugs and dealers.
They are tracking purple heroin that in liquid or powder form, police say children could mistake as Kool-Aid, and in another form, it looks like sidewalk chalk.
Charleston Police believe it is more dangerous than the form of heroin you have heard about for years
"You know, making people overdose more," a detective explains. We can only refer to him as Sgt. Young.
Detectives are trying to stop more purple heroin from making it to your neighborhoods.
"It started more from some of these latest overdoses. They can feel it burning in their arm," Sgt. Young explains.
When most of you are sleeping, these detectives are working, because the dealers are too, in a city that comes alive at night with crime.
"It's amazing how quick it changes. Deal. No deal," Sgt. Young says. "So you've got to use people that's in the game."
Charleston Police say drug dealers are mixing heroin with fentanyl, but they are not sure what else. Police believe cutters and dealers are using food coloring or Kool-Aid to change the color of the drug and brand it as their own.
As for users, "They know it's stronger and more potent," Sgt. Young says. "They want that extreme high."
He says drug users know if they have used too much purple heroin, because they feel like they are on fire.
"By the time you use it and they feel the burn, it's usually kinda too late for them," says Sgt. Young. "This investigation could be pretty big. It could take months," he told WSAZ.
More than three months into the investigation, investigators say many of the details are still too risky to talk about publicly.
They tell us they know where the drug is coming from, but can only release that it is coming from out of state.
"Sometimes we catch it when it's there, and sometimes we don't," Sgt. Young explains, but as police close in, the drugs are not slowing down.