The media turns everything into a crisis, but in this case it seems justified:

As many as 17 Dallas County teenagers have died since 2005 from overdoses of the popular new form of heroin known as “cheese” – the most visible sign yet that more youths are caught in the grip of a growing crisis.

The Dallas Morning News worked with the Dallas County medical examiner’s office to examine toxicology results from hundreds of autopsies and found more than four times as many cheese heroin deaths as previously reported.

Cheese first appeared nearly two years ago, though it went unnoticed by law enforcement and public health officials for quite a while. It’s a mix of illegal heroin and legal OTC drugs. Hispanics are disproportianate users, and therefore make up most of the dead. Keep that in mind, as it figures in how the drug is distributed:

“It definitely surprises me,” said Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, who serves on a regional cheese task force made up of more than a dozen health, government, school and police agencies.

“We’ve had this drug in the community for some time and didn’t recognize it,” Mr. Thompson said. “It flew under the radar of all of us. The cheese heroin has been the most instantly addictive and deadliest drug … that we have seen since the crack cocaine epidemic.”

Its rise, addictiveness and deadliness mirrors a similar outbreak of “black tar heroin” use in the Dallas suburb of Plano, ten years ago.

All of this is fascinating, disturbing and maddening. I’m not big on the “war on drugs,” preferring to save declarations of war when we’re actually in real wars, but I’m also not a libertarian on the issue. The fact is, drugs and the gangs, networks and culture that thrive around their manufacture and distribution are a cancer on society. The whole system is set up to prey on kids and enslave or kill them without pity while criminals get rich or get killed trying to get rich.

This particular epidemic has its roots across the southern border. Many of our drug problems do. Notice how the Dallas Morning News chooses to report the facts:

Speculation abounds about why northwest Dallas is where cheese seems to have started and taken the greatest toll. Some say that it’s because the heroin traffickers are mostly Mexican, who are supplying the young Hispanics who crush the nighttime cold tablets, mix them with the black-tar heroin and then peddle it at their own schools.

Perpetuating the spread of the drug, some believe, is a fear among most illegal immigrants of speaking out to authorities for fear of deportation. Language barriers stymie the free flow of information between parents and their teachers.

The traffickers are merely “Mexican,” while the potential informants are “illegal immigrants,” and the latter is set up as just itching to help out if only they could rest assured that their status wouldn’t get them deported. If it occurred to the DMN reporter that the traffickers could also be “illegal immigrants,” and that they might have familial or other connections to the would-be informants, it’s not evident in the way the story is constructed. The story also doesn’t make the obvious connection: The smugglers appear to be using their cultural connections to develop the “cheese” market and keep it going. Hispanic students make up half the dead so far; Hispanics do not make up half of the total population in the Dallas area.

All around, it’s an awful story. Drug cartels will always stay a step or two ahead of law enforcement. Legalization really won’t work. Unless we find a way to license every weed patch, meth lab, crack house and “cheese” shop in every country in the hemisphere and enforce the relevant regulations, the drug networks will always find a way to operate outside the law. Legalize one drug, they’ll just invent another one or mix a couple of current ones for a whole new buzz, and then they’ll sell it to kids no matter what age restrictions we try to slap on. They’re criminals, and that’s just what criminals do. Our lax border laws aid and abet these criminals in preying on yet another generation, and the media and political elites just paper over the inconvenient particulars. It’s a shame and a disgrace.