Video: Can You Really Get Heroin for Free?

By Jeff Deeney 11/14/11

The story about dealers giving kids free samples to get them hooked can be overplayed. But it does happen—and not only to newcomers.

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Stamp bag Photo via

This video report about St. Louis drug dealers giving out heroin to teens at local parties lends some anecdotal evidence to the old story about dealers giving freebies to new customers to get them hooked, only to jack up the price later. On the streets there's also the common practice of dispensing "testers," where the crew that runs heroin distribution on a certain corner will debut a new batch of product by handing out free nickel bags to addicts. This is done so they'll spread the word to their friends and come back to buy if they like the taste. When the call goes out that a corner's serving testers, it can bring a pack of addicts literally running to line up for one. In big East Coast cities like New York and Philly heroin comes packaged in little glassine envelopes, stamped with a brand name so addicts can identify potent bags and return to the right corner to get more of the same batch. They say there's no such thing as a free lunch, and that's as true in the drug world as anywhere. But sometimes they'll give you just enough to whet your appetite.

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Jeff Deeney is a social worker, freelance writer and recovering addict in Philadelphia. He is a contributor to the Atlantic and has written for the Daily Beast, The Nation, and The Marshall Project. Follow Jeff on Twitter.