Heroin, LLC: A life and business in drugs

Heroin, LLC: A life and business in drugs

(WBEZ/Greg Scott)

DePaul University professor Greg Scott first met D-Bo 11 years ago. Scott is a documentary maker and sociologist specializing in street drug markets. He is also director of the Social Science Research Center at DePaul. D-Bo is a 52-year-old mid-level heroin dealer. He has been selling and using heroin for a quarter century. They recently spent some time together talking about the business of heroin dealing.

D-Bo frequently gets from his supplier so-called “raw” heroin, which in Chicago means a product that is about 40 percent pure. Usually it comes in a rock-like form. D-Bo cuts the “raw” with the butt end of a flashlight and cuts the resulting powder with a mix. Over the counter sleeping aids are his number one choice for cutting, diluting and extending the profit margin of a batch of “raw” dope for distribution.

“Everybody that’s trying to be in the game, they pretty much come to me,” D-Bo says. “I’m kind of like The Godfather.” During one of Scott’s visits, an acquaintance of D-Bo’s brings by some heroin for a read on its quality. “He wanted me to give him a read on it,” D-Bo says. “He wants to know how it cooks, what the color looks like; he wants to know how it tastes before I shoot it. And then tell him how high it got me.”

“Most heroin dealers are guys who started out a little shady but then they bought businesses. They’re walking around wearing shirts and ties and you’d never know they’ve got 500 grams of heroin stashed in somebody’s house,” D-Bo says. “There’s various levels of dealers. You got the street dealer. If their product is decent they can make anywhere from $500 a day to $10,000 a day. Then you got the guys working off their phones. You can call them, as long as it’s at least $20, they’re gonna come. Then you got the guys selling to all those guys. Actually he’s making more money than everybody because he’s dealing with turnover.”

D-Bo says he knows a drug dealer who is a millionaire, but feels trapped, like the police are out to get him every day. But D-Bo understands why this person keeps selling drugs. “It’s a rush,” he says. “Just like playing football, basketball was a rush to me. Baseball was a rush to me. Everything I did was a rush to me.”

(WBEZ/Greg Scott)

To counter the depressant effects of heroin, D-Bo smokes crack regularly, particularly when he’s moving product. It keeps him sharp.

D-Bo says, “There’s a couple of myths about heroin. Some heroin addicts look like they’re bums, you know, their clothes are dirty. They don’t have a job and things like that. But I know some of the higher echelon people in society: doctors, lawyers, teachers. The list can go on and on. I’m talking about people that are high up in society, that use heroin….I know some doctors and lawyers whose habits were so great – and their money was so long – that it took for them to screw up in their profession before they would actually address the issue of their problem. And then they fall hard just like anybody else. They be right in the treatment center with the guy that don’t have no job, that is sleeping in the gutter. Ain’t no different.”

D-Bo wishes for a simpler time, before heroin. He’s in a program but he’s not all the way true to it. “I love heroin,” D-Bo says, “But I know heroin will destroy me.”

Aurora Aguilar and Bill Healy helped produce this report.

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