Everyone knows opioid addiction is at a crisis level with so many people abusing prescription painkillers. But what you may not know is that's led to a huge increase in the number of people turning to heroin.
Mexican cartels are flooding the streets of Tulsa with heroin so federal agents and Tulsa County deputies are doing everything they can to stop it.
They gave Lori Fullbright unprecedented access into one of their recent undercover investigations.
She was allowed to be right there as deputies did undercover drug buys, then arrested the traffickers. The surprising thing is these drug deals happen in busy shopping areas in midtown Tulsa where moms and kids are running errands and people are having lunch. Many of these addicts are every day, professional, family people and heroin is killing them, which is what law enforcement wants to stop.
Lori sat with officers in a shopping center at 41st and Yale, waiting for the drug dealers to arrive. They always pick the location. Deputies and agents are all around for safety, but out of sight, so they don't spook their target.
Deputy: "We don't do these things by the seat of our pants. It's something that's planned," said one Deputy.
Lori was in the back seat while an undercover deputy and her photographer were up front as the targets pulled into the lot.
The dealer had a new trainee with him, sent by the cartel, who rotates new crews in every few months. The entire drug deal takes 60 seconds.
Suspect: "What's up man?"
Undercover: "Tired of working. What's your name?"
Suspect: "This is George."
Undercover: "George, nice to meet you."
Suspect: "Next week, be him."
Suspect: "Yeah, maybe. How much?"
Undercover: "Three, like last time."
Suspect: "Three, where do you work?"
Undercover: "For the oil company, down in Texas, sometimes work on a platform."
Undercover: "Yeah. It's good money."
Suspect: "Is money for you, money for me."
Undercover: "Yeah, good for everybody."
Undercover: "Okay, man, good to meet you."
Suspect: "Take care."
The undercover bought three "bigs" of heroin, or three grams, for 100 bucks each and the people in the busy shopping area have no idea. Drug deals happen like this every day.
"This isn't the only show in town, right now, it's one of many," said the undercover deputy.
"That's the black tar heroin, that's what it looks like," the deputy said.
They took the heroin back to the office to weigh it and test it before packaging it for evidence. If it turns green, it's heroin.
"It'll get darker as we sit here. It's already getting darker," the deputy said.
When people get addicted to pain pills and those pills get harder to buy, they often turn to heroin.
"The cartels have stepped in and said, this is what we have for you now. You don't need a prescription for this, all you need is cash," said the deputy.
The problem with heroin being made in third world countries is there's no way to know what's in it.
"You're the unlucky soul that happens to get fentanyl in your dose or your balloon, that's death time for you," said the deputy.
Heroin addicts are not what most people picture, shooting up in alleys.
"It would blow your mind, doctors, surgeons, chiropractors, nurses, lawyers, football coaches," the deputy said.
Deputies arrested the two drug dealers in their South Tulsa apartment and found a stash of nearly three pounds of heroin hidden in an air conditioning unit along with thousands in cash, plus a ledger, noting the deals by date and price.
The bust was a great success, but these deputies and agents know it's not over.
"We're having a great effect here, but as soon as we bust them, next week, they're sending more here," the deputy said.
Stopping the supply is just one side of it. The other side is the demand, helping those who are addicted.
Friday night, Lori Fullbright will introduce you to a straight-A student from a good family, who became a heroin addict, what it did to her life, and how she finally got clean.