Jimbo tries to be cautious these days. The middle-age heroin user says he buys only from dealers he knows - a hedge against getting heroin mixed with the pain-reliever fentanyl, a concoction that has killed at least 150 people in recent months.
Many of his friends, though, seek out fentanyl-laced heroin for its potent high, swapping information about where the latest overdose victim got his dope.
"They always say, 'It's gonna be different with me, 'cause I'm not going to use so much,' but it's still too much," says Jimbo, as he exchanged used needles for clean ones at a mobile van run by the Chicago Recovery Alliance. "It's a whole new ballgame."
"The typical addict in Chicago is spending $25 to $30 a day on heroin, not actually getting high but just keeping them from going into withdrawal," says Greg Scott, a sociologist at DePaul University who studies drugs and gangs in the city. "If for that same $30 you can get high the way you used to, it makes sense."
Of the five drug crews Professor Scott has spent time with in Chicago, four are dealing at least 50-percent fentanyl-laced drugs, he says. They tell him they're willing to accept a certain number of deaths among their customers because the profits increase so much in the days immediately after the overdoses. Some gangs have even given out free samples as a marketing ploy.
Apropos of nothing, the sociologist mentioned in the story appears to be the same Greg Scott who filed a lawsuit against a theater chain that showed advertisements before starting a scheduled showing of a film. A news report on the suit can be found here, and a mention of the suit is made here while discussing another, similar suit.