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How dealers are camouflaging heroin to fool cops

Dealers are pressing powdered heroin using pill presses and using pharmaceutical opiate dyes to mask their efforts


Most heroin users do not swallow the drug as a pill — the form simply serves as camouflage.

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Cops have witnessed the recent rise of heroin use across the nation. I personally have never seen this much heroin in my 27 years of working dope. As this epidemic continues, there is an unusual form of the drug hitting the streets across the US: heroin in pill form. This new form is not pharmaceutical; think of it as Molly for opiate addicts.

Although the method is becoming more widespread, it is really not that new. We have seen a huge spike in people making their own Xanax tablets, for example, across the United States. Dealers order Xanax in powder form from China and then use a pill press to press the powder into the shape of Xanax, all with the same imprint codes.

Using the same process, heroin dealers are pressing powdered heroin, but using opiate pharmaceutical dyes. As an example, a dealer could press white heroin into the form of Vicodin, complete with the same imprint codes. The buyer may have a prescription for Vicodin and put the white heroin pills into his or her prescription pill bottle. If an officer stops the suspect and does a search, he or she may not catch on that the tablets aren’t Vicodin.

Not Taken Orally

Most heroin users, which consider oral delivery a “waste of a good high,” do not swallow the drug as a pill. The form simply serves as camouflage. The user will instead grind the pill up and either snort it, inject it, or booty bump it (take it rectally).

The amount of cutter in each pill is up to the dealer. Some cutter has included Xanax, acetaminophen, caffeine and diazepam. The pills can appear as any number of different prescription drugs. Most commonly, the press is set up to pop out pills that look like OxyContin or hydrocodone, but they can be set up to mimic any other pharmaceutical drug you can think of.

Be Aware

It’s important for cops to remember you never know what you are getting when you seize drugs. You may have a pill that has all of the markings of hydrocodone, but in actuality is heroin. How many times have you seen a great dope cop (maybe yourself) seize a white powder and claim it’s meth only to discover later that it’s coke? It has happened to the best of us.

It’s time to change your thinking when you start recovering pills. Never assume a drug is produced by a pharmaceutical company just because it appears to be.

Keith is a retired Police Sergeant who worked in the San Francisco Bay Area for 29 years. He was named as California’s Narcotics Officer of the Year and is a prior winner of MADD’s California Hero Award. He has years of experience as a Narcotics Detective and a Narcotics Unit Supervisor and is a Drug Recognition Expert Instructor (IACP #3292). He has developed several drug courses for the California Narcotics Officers Association, California POST and California Colleges, and currently consults POST on drug investigation procedures. Keith has taught thousands of officers and businesses around the world about drug use, drug trends, compliance training and drug investigations. He is recognized as an international drug expert and has testified as an expert in court proceedings on drug cases, homicide cases and rape prosecutions. Keith is the Founder and President of Graves & Associates, a company dedicated to providing drug training to law enforcement and private industry. Keith is a member of the Police1 Editorial Advisory Board.