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Marketing Drugs to Kids: From Cheese to Strawberry Quick

DALLAS, Texas — Something called “cheese” is killing kids. In August of 2005, no one had even heard of it — so much so, that when a school district police officer first saw a bag of this drug, he thought it was fake. Now officials realize cheese is all too real; at least 21 kids have died from overdosing on it.

Cheese is a combination of black tar heroin and crushed up Tylenol PM tablets and hits of it sell for a buck or two. Like any type of heroin, cheese is highly addictive and deadly. If that’s not enough to scare you, there’s this: drug pushers cooked it up special for kids.

“Traditionally heroin is going to be an adult user drug,” says Dallas Independent School District Officer Jeremy Liebbe. “Black tar heroin is cooked on a spoon, mixed with liquid and injected. Meaning needles. Not many kids are wild about needles, so if you want to market heroin to kids you've got to come up with an alternative to it.”

And that’s exactly what drug dealers in the Dallas area have done — they’ve come up with a form that can be snorted and gave it a seemingly benign name: “cheese.” But cheese is just the start. Have you heard of “Strawberry Quick?” It’s not a kid’s drink — it’s a kid’s methamphetamine. Drug dealers mix meth with Kool-Aid in an attempt to make it look and taste better. And again, there’s the snappy name. While Strawberry Quick hasn’t made a big splash in Dallas, it is gaining ground in other parts of the country.

The DEA says the whole act of marketing drugs to kids is a dangerous and relatively new trend.
“They're looking for a new consumer, ” says James Capra, the Special Agent In Charge of the DEA office in Dallas. “They've taken the tactic that advertising people have taken for years; you want to sell a product, you’ve got do a good marketing approach to it.”

The anecdote for any slick marketing campaign is the truth. Cheese users, if they live, eventually escalate to needle use. And if they try to get off cheese, users have horrible physical and mental withdrawal symptoms. So of course it’s best never to start. As for meth, anyone who’s seen a meth addict, with their scabbed skin and rotting teeth, knows what a con “Strawberry Quick” is.

What can you do? Fernando Cortez is getting involved. He lost his 15-year-old son to cheese earlier this year. Cortez swears his son wasn’t a user and is haunted by what-ifs. What if he had done this versus that? Would his son still be alive? In the end, Cortez has had to put away those thoughts and channel his grief into something that could save lives. He goes to Dallas schools, speaking out about his painful experience and giving out his cell phone number to anyone who needs to talk. He urges parents to do the same — talk to their kids.

Drug experts add this advice: don’t bury your head in the sand. If your child’s grades drop, he loses interest in the activities he once loved, if he changes friends, if he starts to have trouble at school … all of these are warning signs that need to be acted upon immediately. With drug dealers stepping up their efforts to target your kids, police and drug counselors say we should all make as much of an effort to keep them safe.


Maggie Lineback is a FOX News channel producer.