Heroin is one of the better-known illicit and illegal substances abused in the U.S. and around the world. An opiate and, specifically, a morphine derivative, heroin is highly-addictive and can prove fatal even when first used. Heroin and its addictive grip on individuals are responsible for spates of drug-related violence, broken homes and families, and the epidemic-like destruction of the once-so-promising lives that users may have had. Making matters worse, trafficked from a number of areas around the world, the heroin trade is responsible for the funding of numerous nefarious sects, including terrorist groups.

A lesser-known truth about heroin is that it comes in a number of forms, each varying in its addictive properties, side-effects, risks, and – as you will soon see – price. In recent years, despite the number of strains that have hit the streets in the last few decades, community drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers have learned of a new form of heroin creating strife for individuals and their families: “cheese.”

Cheese Heroin Provides yet another Route for Substance Abuse

Cheese heroin first garnered attention when it appeared in a 2006 Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) newsletter, which stated that, “Between August 15, 2005, and March 1, 2006, the Dallas Independent School District Police Department handled 54 felony offenses and 24 found property cases involving a new drug mixture known on the street as ‘Cheese’, a so-called ‘starter form’ of heroin.”

Largely insufflated (snorted), cheese is not pure heroin; rather, cheese heroin is comprised largely of crushed over-the-counter sleep medication (typically Tylenol PM) and a small amount of black tar heroin usually in the 1-8% range. The mixture, which is heated to evaporate excess moisture, cuts the potency of the black tar heroin and increases that of diphenhydramine (an antihistamine found also in Benadryl) and acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol). By heating the mixture, snorting is facilitated.

Cheese heroin is, of course, addictive, but while posing a health risk, the true seriousness behind its insidious nature isn’t so much its chemical composition, but the people who seem to be gravitating toward its use.

Children, Young Adults, and Cheese Heroin Substance Abuse

A report on cheese heroin by National Public Radio (NPR) found that “cheese heroin was completely unknown in the United States until the first case was discovered at Thomas Jefferson High School in August 2005,” further adding – and this is of grave importance because of the young individuals to which cheese heroin is marketed – that “cheese costs only a dollar or two a line — well within a middle-schooler’s lunch budget.”

Such is the reality of cheese heroin’s emergence in the drug market.

By targeting teens, cheese heroin provides a gateway to heroin’s purer forms and other drugs similar in heroin’s addictive and destructive properties. In other words, cheese should not be taken likely. Similar to parmesan cheese in appearance (hence the name), you should take notice of any distinct and unknown powdery cheese-like substances you may find in your home or in the home of a loved one. The steps you take toward halting cheese heroin abuse may impede the sometimes-inevitable track that someone may take following introduction to addictive substances.