Casey says the average heroin addict’s life span is four years. “I’ve being doing this for three,” he says. “I’ll be dead in a year.”---
He pays $8 for a “dime” of “cheese,” a relatively new iteration of heroin also known as “Smack with Tylenol,” since the drug is cut with over-the-counter sleeping drugs or painkillers. It’s called cheese, Casey says, because the main distributors are “cheddars,” gang members from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Why these immigrant drug smugglers and dealers are called cheddars he didn’t know.
Kids come to Denver, he says, whether it’s from Seattle or Chicago, because of heroin’s availability there. A lot of people like living homeless, he adds. “No responsibilities.” Inevitably, particularly given Denver’s winters, panhandling gets harder as the year draws on. “People are cold and they don’t want to stop,” he says.
Casey’s angry there’s no needle exchange program in Denver. One of his friends is dying from Aids. Another, with whom he shares his needles, may have contracted Hepatitis C. Casey's waiting for a blood test to come back to find out if he's contracted Hep C. A Hepatitis C epidemic plagues Denver according to media reports. Casey says the rapid growth in the number of heroin users since 2005 in Denver has been swept under the rug by the authorities.
He carefully wraps up the remains of his egg and bacon sandwich, puts it in his knapsack. His morning plans are simple: panhandle for his next fix.