Police Warn of High-Grade Heroin


White heroin potent enough to be lethal could be circulating on Houston streets, police warned Friday.

Officers recently intercepted a "significant" amount of white heroin that was 87 percent pure - more than five times the purity considered dangerous and potentially deadly.

Police arrested a street-level dealer possessing the potent narcotic and decided to alert the public. "Clearly, we're concerned about people's health," said acting Police Chief Tim Oettmeier. "A certain segment of the population takes drugs, and their health is at risk. If we know something is going to endanger their health, even if they're doing something illegal, the right thing to do is to make them aware of it."

In August last year, 16 residents of northeast Houston died one weekend after they overdosed on "speedball," a highly potent mixture of heroin and cocaine.

The victims, ranging from a 16-year-old girl to a 46-year-old man, took the same speedball mixture and died within a 48-hour period.

Police declined to elaborate on the recent arrest or to say how much white heroin might be on the streets or where it might be sold.

The extremely pure white heroin differs from brown heroin in its greater potency and method of ingestion. White heroin can be injected, while brown heroin is commonly smoked.

The nationwide average purity for heroin being sold on the streets is about 38 percent - less than half of what was confiscated here - according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The purity level of retail heroin jumped from an average of about 7 percent in the 1980s to about 25 percent in the early 1990s.

Heroin can cost $ 13,000 to $ 200,000 per kilogram, based on purity and country of origin.

This country's largest market for high-purity white heroin is in the Northeast, the DEA says, with Philadelphia leading the nation with 72 percent pure on average.

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