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Addiction in Franklin County

Doses come in different forms, varied prices

The bag is the basic unit of the dealer-to-user heroin trade. Ten bags equal a bundle, but there is no fixed weight associated with either unit.

Prices quoted by area detectives ranged from the $6 to $11 range to as high as $25 per bag, in any case cheaper in the source cities including Springfield, Holyoke and Brattleboro, Vt.

Prices decrease when buying in bulk and in cities such as Holyoke, where one incarcerated user put the price of 10 bundles at $450 — $4.50 a bag.

The drug itself ranges from white powder through a brownish baby formula hue to Mexican black tar, a lump form resembling roofing tar.

Prices vary from seller to seller, buyer to buyer and based on quantity purchased and the reputation of the batch or its source.

A bag is often a piece of wax paper tightly folded to roughly one-inch by one-inch and marked with an ink stamp. This is known as a stamp bag, and there is some disagreement as to whether this name results from the stamp or from the use in some markets of the small glassine envelopes sold to stamp collectors for the purpose of storing rare specimens.

Jarret Mousseau, narcotics officer for the Athol Police Department, reported different packaging in his area. Mousseau said the stamped wax paper squares and small zip-lock jewelry bags marked with stickers he had been used to seeing a few years ago are giving way to tinfoil rolls and knotted sandwich bag corners, both unmarked.

“It seems like we’re getting more — I hate to characterize it, but — ‘city packaging,’ tinfoil folds and corner bags like powder cocaine is packaged.” He said.

“We’re also seeing city prices, which is not good.”

State Trooper Stephen Bushay said it seems as though Orange is the middle point where suppliers switch, with heroin in Franklin County more likely to have been funneled through Holyoke and in the Athol area more likely funneled through Fitchburg and Worcester.

A Vermont man arrested in October on Interstate 91 in Whately allegedly told the arresting officer he had purchased the heroin found in his jacket pocket — following his arrest for driving without a license — in Hartford for $5 a bag.

Dr. Ruth Potee, who interacts with many who have first-hand knowledge of the problem in her role as one of few area Suboxone prescribers, worries the low price point — cheaper than a six-pack in some areas — is likely to reel in younger users, but pointed out the low prices are deceptive.

“People will easily spend $100 to $200 a day to feed their addiction,” Potee said.

Prices for prescription pills sold illegally are higher but simpler, at what seems to be a standard rate of $1-per-milligram, with an equivalent dose of OxyContin or Percocet working out to roughly three times the cost of a $10 bag of heroin, according to one recovering addict’s personal arithmetic.

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Heroin is a life-altering low point in an old line of damaging recreational drugs and usually beneficial medicines, essentially the same substances, born from the opium poppy. Opium itself was used recreationally and as a medicine for centuries before its active ingredient, morphine, was isolated and purified in the early 1800s. Heroin was among the earliest and least successful attempts … 0

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