Updated:ATLANTA,None — Atlanta police said they have noticed an uptick of heroin sales on city streets.
Drug investigators said one reason for the increase is that the addictive drug is cheaper than the street price of powerful pain killers like Oxycontin.
But Channel 2 Action News has learned that dope dealers are getting more new customers from suburban metro high schools.
Channel 2 Action News reporter Tom Regan began digging into the story after a Roswell drug treatment counselor told a Channel 2 producer that some of his young patients, including high school students, bought heroin off the street in an Atlanta neighborhood known as "The Bluffs."
The neighborhood is located near the intersection of North Avenue and Northside Drive.
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"These are kids from upper and middle class suburbs who know ‘I can go down there and get heroin,' said Dr. Robert Margolis.
"We've had kids go down there that have been involved in shootings. They have no idea of what they're getting into. Then they find out their ‘buddy‘ at The Bluffs has no qualms of beating them up or mugging them or whatever."
Regan visited Narconon, a drug counseling facility in Norcross. He sat down for an interview with "Brian", a 21-year-old recovering heroin addict.
Brian told Regan that he knows friends from high schools in Gwinnett County who have purchased heroin in Atlanta.
"I went down to The Bluffs. The first street I went down, someone flagged me down and it took like two minutes to get heroin once I got down there."
Regan: Aren't you and other kids worried about the danger?
"People who use drugs really don't worry about the danger. It controls your life," said Brian.
Brian said he began snorting heroin and then started shooting it. At the height of his addiction, he was spending $200 a day on the drug. He told Regan that he knows four friends from another state who died after overdosing on heroin. He said young people abusing pain killers are most at risk of trying heroin and becoming addicted.
"Kids are doing painkillers, and after a while, that's not working and you want to find something more powerful. That's heroin."
A drug counselor at Narconon told Regan that heroin is relatively cheap and easily obtained in Atlanta because the metro area is a way station for Mexican cartels distributing the drug throughout the southeast and eventually to northern states.
Margolis advises parents not to discount the possibility that their children may try the potentially deadly drug.
"They think it's the same thing as a pain killer, another opiate," said Margolis. "But they're in a whole new universe."