Albany Dougherty Drug Unit agents are on guard, concerned South Georgia could see an increase in heroin, a dangerous drug that has become more common in recent years in other parts of the country.
Ironically the death of a Hollywood star from heroin is one of the reasons drug agents are concerned that some South Georgians will try the very addictive, and often fatal drug.
Drug agents say last week's death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, from an apparent heroin overdose, may actually push some people to try the powerful narcotic.
Albany Dougherty Drug Unit Commander Major Bill Berry said "Let's try that. Let's experiment with that. Let's see if we can get some of that. And the market is there. If it just hits, or if it hits here, will that be our next epidemic, if you want to call it that."
Drug agents say they have been hearing about heroin in the Albany area recently, but say their most recent bust was in 2012 when they intercepted a large shipment from Chicago. Agents say the overwhelming popularity of prescription pills in South Georgia has skyrocketed their cost, and that addicts may turn to heroin, which is cheaper.
Berry said "Now that pain pills have gotten so expensive, they are going to start looking for something else which they can afford, and still get the same effect."
Federal authorities have issued recent warnings about a rash of deaths across the nation involving heroin laced with another powerful synthetic opiate , fentanyl. The mixture makes the drug more powerful and more addictive. Drug agents worry that addicts will see that heroin was the drug of choice for a Hollywood star like an endorsement, even if it's believed to have killed him, and lead them to try it.
Berry said "That's what our worry is. If it gets in, and gets into the community, how is it going to affect life here."
That's why drug agents are keeping watch closely for heroin.
Right now on the street, most prescription pain pills will cost at least $20 each. Drug agents worry addicts, unable to pay the price, will move to heroin, which can be about half that price.