BY Simone Weichselbaum
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Federal officials are warning New York cops to be on the lookout for a cheap – and potentially deadly – heroin cocktail aimed at teens.
Cops across Manhattan were recently told to watch out for “cheese,” a mix of heroin and crushed Tylenol PM.
Cheese sells for as little as $2 a hit and delivers a euphoric high followed by drowsiness. To keep the high, users need to snort it up to 15 times a day – along with a potentially lethal dosage of acetaminophen.
Cheese, which came on the radar in Dallas in 2005, has not been seen much in New York, but heroin use among teens is on the rise in the city – and the Drug Enforcement Agency fears cheese could be the next step.
“It’s the makings of a recipe for disaster,” said John Gilbride, who heads the Drug Enforcement Agency’s New York office. Heroin, associated with hardcore junkies and needles, has lost some of its stigma among teens who snort, rather than inject, the drug, Gilbride said.
Dealers are stamping packets with kid-friendly brands such as Mickey Mouse, Lady Gaga, Looney Tunes and Lion King, the office of New York Special Narcotics Prosecutor, Bridget Brennan said.
The percentage of public high school students who have tried heroin increased from 1.3% in 2007 to 2.6% in 2009, the city Health Department said.
Despite the small numbers, the DEA says it’s recently seen more dealers marketing heroin to a younger audience and more teens busted for using it.
Cheese has been blamed for the deaths of more than 20 young users in the Dallas area.
“It can ruin lives,” said an NYPD commander who recently taught patrol officers how to spot cheese.
Dallas dad Dave Cannata travels the country warning parents about the deadly mix of heroin and Tylenol PM. He found his 16-year-old boy, Nick, dead in his bedroom five years ago after he overdosed on the cocktail. “Parents need to be scared of this stuff,” Cannata said. “Every day I look at his picture and I wish that I spent the 40 grand a month to send him away to get some help.” Cannata, a Bronx native and computer chip specialist, said his insurance would pay only for 30 days of drug rehab. Nick Cannata was out of rehab six months when he came home in a bad mood on June 4, 2005, and went straight to bed. The next morning, he was dead. Instead of keeping the pain to himself, Dave Cannata said he speaks to parents of young addicts in Texas, Chicago and Los Angeles about cheese. “You have to jump on the problem right away. This drug is so highly addictive.”