"When we started having some success of getting illegal prescription medication off the streets, the addicts were having to revert to heroin because it's similar in compounds," said Phil Price, the Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Unit commander.
The sale of heroin was once limited to some Atlanta inner city neighborhoods, but Cherokee County drug investigators said it is on the rise.
"We're seeing this evolution where heroin is starting to show up in the suburbs. It's starting to make a real strong push," said Phil Price, the Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Unit commander.
Price attributed some of the increase to the crackdown on the illegal sale of prescription pain medication.
"When we started having some success of getting illegal prescription medication off the streets, the addicts were having to revert to heroin because it's similar in compounds," Price told Channel 2’s Tom Regan.
A drug counselor said the cost of heroin can often be cheaper than prescription pain medication and provide similar euphoric effects, but she said that a user's tolerance quickly builds.
"You build a tolerance very quickly within a month or two, and then you're dope sick. You're going to have physical withdrawal when you stop," said Grace Price.
On Tuesday, investigators arrested two men in an undercover drug sting. Brandon Ray, 22, of Acworth, and 31-year-old Richard Edwards, of Woodstock, were charged with trafficking heroin. Investigators seized 4 grams of what they described as brown Mexican heroin.
"The Mexican drug trafficking organizations are starting to push heroin even over meth, marijuana and other drugs because there's just as much cash proceeds but it's easier to smuggle,” said Price.
The drug counselor said the patients she sees don't fit the stereotypical image of a junkie. She described them as "young, 20s and 30s. These are educated people with professional parents. They look like librarians. They look like computer geeks. But they have track marks on their arms," said Price.