With heroin becoming cheaper than a six-pack ($6 for a "button") and as easy to obtain as pot, police and prosecutors are turning to more aggressive tactics against the drug, dusting off little-used laws to seek murder charges against suspected dealers and provide for longer prison sentences. The more assertive approach is not entirely new to the drug war, but it's being adopted more widely and in more areas that have rarely been so bold—comfortable residential communities.
"We are going to treat every overdose scene like a crime scene. We are going to treat every overdose as a potential homicide," says the US attorney for southern Illinois. "Heroin is the bullet." Once associated with rock stars and inner-city junkies, heroin has become far more dangerous and accessible in recent years. Mexican cartels a half-decade ago created a form of the drug so pure it can be snorted or swallowed instead of injected, making heroin more appealing to teenagers and suburbanites who don't want the stigma of shooting up. The extreme purity means today's heroin is far deadlier than in the past. As a result, heroin deaths have spiked. Click for the full story. (Read more heroin stories.)