As New Jersey’s heroin and opiate epidemic continues to spiral out of control, common myths, stereotypes and misconceptions about users and dealers are being shattered.

We used to think of the heroin user as a down-and-out, city dwelling loser who would shoot up in a back alley or the dark hallway of an abandoned building. Today, we also know many heroin addicts living in suburban or rural parts of Jersey. They frequently are young, and plenty are financially successful with respectable careers.

And many of today’s heroin dealers are also young, suburban residents — some even fit the all-American “kid next door” image.

Carolyn Kruge
Carolyn Krug, 24, of Howell (David Matthau / Townsquare Media)

One of them is 24-year-old Carolyn Krug from Howell.

When she was little, Krug imagined she’d grow up to be a veterinarian, but then she got involved with drugs.

At age 12 she started drinking alcohol and smoking pot. At 15, she was taking prescription painkillers and synthetic heroin. By the time she was 18, Krug said, she was a “full blown crackhead.”

A short while later, she started selling synthetic heroin.

“I sold to my high school friends, potheads that wanted something a little more,” she said. “They were kids that were in my grade, then they would tell their friends and it went from being like a small thing of like me selling to my neighbors or the kids I grew up with to their cousins, their parents.”

She said selling synthetic heroin became a regular part of her everyday life.

“I would tell them how to do it and what to do with it and you could sell it anywhere, you know you could pretend you were dropping off an envelope in a mailbox with a letter in it and it would have pills in it or a piece of artwork that was wrapped around it,” she said.

Mashantii Troy from Freehold was a basketball player in high school and college, and started selling drugs like marijuana when he was 18 years old. He soon began selling heroin.

“I was selling to white kids in the suburbs. Sometimes I can go right around the corner. I just had people working for me so I would give it out and would know who they would give it to,” he said.

Troy would regularly visit towns like Marlboro, Manalapan, Brick and Belmar to sell drugs to clients he got through mutual friends and by word of mouth, and “I also would rent houses with other fellow drug dealers and we would sell in those particular areas where we knew they were doing a lot of heroin and stuff.”

In addition to selling drugs, Krug begain using heroin as well, and things spiraled out of control.

“It literally completely rewires your brain and throws off your judgment, your differences of right and wrong, like you still know it’s wrong but you justify it in your mind so that you think it’s right,” she said. “You know a normal person in society wouldn’t be like, okay I’m going to wake up in the morning and rob this house just because I want money, I was stealing from college students, I would steal their laptops or notebooks or whatever technology they had and I had it in my mind, oh their parents will replace it, like it got stolen, they have it, I need it right now.”

Both Krug and Troy are now part of CFC Loud N Clear, a comprehensive drug recovery group in Farmingdale. Krug has been drug-free for 3 and a half years, while Troy has been clean for 2 and a half years.

“Having this network of support is very important, because I can reach out and call somebody, I can tell somebody what’s going on and what my thoughts are, and they’re there for you,” she said.

This is the second part in a week-long series. Part 1: Why quitting heroin is so hard. Tomorrow we look at the changing face of heroin in New Jersey and why it’s become so inexpensive and dangerous. 

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