"We could not afford to buy that much heroin."
July 21, 2012 6:46 AM   Subscribe

Q: What's the connection between heroin in Glasgow and a dead goat in Turkey? A: Anthrax.
posted by Len (16 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Spreading the Disease!
posted by Renoroc at 7:22 AM on July 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Fascinating. And horrifying. Thanks for posting (I think).
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:54 AM on July 21, 2012

This makes me feel like a beetle on its back.
posted by Decani at 8:25 AM on July 21, 2012 [6 favorites]

Amazing. If I'd known what an epidemiologist was when I was a kid, I bet I would've wanted to be one when I grew up.
posted by rtha at 8:52 AM on July 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

Wow, great story. It reminds me that we are not so different from Aspens regarding our interconnectedness.
posted by snaparapans at 9:00 AM on July 21, 2012

IIRC, most of the serious anthrax cases have involved people who injected subcutaneously or intramuscularly.

So if avoiding anthrax is your goal, intravenous injection is best!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:30 AM on July 21, 2012

Hardly anyone shoots heroin SubQ or IM because that's their preference. Dopefiends call it "skin-popping," and it's a kind of last-ditch route of administration for folks whose veins have become scarred and fibrous from use. Needles basically bounce off of veins that are scarred in this way. Usually, injection drug users will wear out their median cubital veins first, at which point (no pun intended), they'll either resort to using smaller veins in their hands or "pocket shooting" into the internal jugular, brachiocephalic, or subclavian veins of the neck.

It can take upwards of an hour for an older user to find a good vein, and the frustruation frequently drives (usually white) users to shoot SubQ or IM. These injections are risky, as they more frequently result in abscesses than IV injections. The article cites Bacillus cereus being the main culprit in Scotland, but I'm not so sure that's correct. In the US, at least, the big players are Staph epidermidis (normal skin flora) and Strep viridans (normal mouth flora-- infections seen in users who lick their needles prior to injecting). B cereus is more commonly associated with grains, though if the dealer kept his stash in a cereal box then maybe there's something to that.

Of course, IV administration carries its own risks-- bacterial endocarditis chief among these but also septicemia and the like. I think the moral of the story here is that it's important to have clean works, a clean syringe, a trusted source, and a safe place to inject.
posted by The White Hat at 10:09 AM on July 21, 2012 [6 favorites]

FTA: "Nobody tags heroin with a barcode."

Maybe we should?
posted by fartknocker at 10:33 AM on July 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

An amazing read, truly fascinating. Where it talks about this previous case he worked on and says:
In 2006, he spent months trying to unravel the cause of death of a 50-year-old drum-maker in a village on the English border. A Buddhist who loved gardening, Christopher Pascal Norris suffered a brief flu-like illness before dying in an Edinburgh hospital. The cause of his death wasn't known until a month later, when blood samples were finally cultured at a lab in London, revealing the presence of Bacillus anthracis.
and then it shows how they investigated it was very interesting. Thanks.

I had/lost - not in the kicked the bucket sense though - a friend to scag. I have been at his flat when him and his g/f took the fucking stuff. I saw (well I didn't because I can't stand needles) him have to inject it into his foot as the veins in his arms were shot. I stopped goig after that, they don't do much, get money-score scag-take scag-gouge out.
posted by marienbad at 10:44 AM on July 21, 2012

I guess I won't be going to any drum circles from now on...
posted by acb at 10:53 AM on July 21, 2012

Great article. The heroin angle is pretty fascinating but you rather expect that such a high-risk activity might be fraught with dangers, even exotic ones. But a drum maker? That's quite the story. Good on the disease detectives for tracking this down.
posted by madamjujujive at 11:08 AM on July 21, 2012

18 people dead and a bunch hospitalised, huge amounts of police and scientific time taken up. All over something that wouldn't have happened if this stuff was legal, or controlled in some way.

Fascinating article, anyway. One thing that struck me as interesting was the comment that Edinburgh and Glasgow get their heroin from completely different sources - even though the two cities are only an hour apart by train.
posted by Infinite Jest at 11:44 AM on July 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Doesn't this story crop up every few years? I'm pretty sure I've been hearing it since the mid '80s.
posted by zoo at 12:30 PM on July 21, 2012


Not a new story at all.
posted by zoo at 12:36 PM on July 21, 2012

so apparently this is going on in france as well.
posted by jonbro at 1:22 PM on July 24, 2012

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