Heroin use affecting young people

Posted at: 11/13/2013 5:36 PM
Updated at: 11/14/2013 6:26 PM
By: Kumi Tucker

Heroin use is on the rise in the Capital Region.

**Note: some of the names have been changed in this story to protect their identities.

Brianna started snorting heroin at 14.

"I tried anything that would get me high and I liked the feeling . I just continued to do it. Eventually, I came to shooting heroin," she said.

"How old were you?"

"When I started shooting heroin, I was sixteen."

She's one of the many young people who started off first with pills.

"That's how I started, with the Oxycontins, the hydrocodones, the Roxicets. I started off with those, but heroin-- it's just-- more people have it and have lots more of it, so it's a lot easier to get than the prescription pills, definitely," she said.

Law enforcement says heroin is flooding our streets. It's sold in powder form. Each packet goes for about $10.

"The street name, we call it dope or dog food. Every drug dealer's got it. It's so common nowadays. I mean, everybody's doing it."

"I was shooting up a lot," she continued. "Especially towards the end. I overdosed once. I stopped breathing by the time the ambulance got there and they brought me back. That was an eye-opener for me."

Lexi is 18, also in recovery.

"Painkillers got too expensive, opiates did, so I moved on to heroin. It was just an opportunity I had one night. Somebody I was in a car with was doing it and they just offered it to me and I wasn't hesitant at all. From there it got really bad," she said.

"You start sniffing it and then you progress to needles. You feel sick if you don't have it."

"My dad, he never picked up on it," Lexi continued. "He knew I was using something but he didn't know what until he got called to the hospital one night."

Kat started using drugs at 11 years old, heroin at 15.

"It's cheaper than pills. And when you do shoot it up, it's like instant gratification. It's instant rush," she said.

"The first time I did it, I was automatically hooked. It's very addicting."

All three girls are in the Adolescent Program at Hope House, a substance abuse treatment center in Albany.

"I would say within the last couple months a quarter of our building has identified opiates and heroin as their drugs of choice," said Phillip Lucien, Program Manager at the Hope House Adolescent Treatment Facility.

"Heroin hasn't gone away," said Kevin Connally, Executive Director of Hope House. "But what's becoming most troubling is the fact that we're now seeing more of our adolescent clients using heroin."

"There's tragedy in prescription pills. There's tragedy in heroin. And overdoses aren't uncommon," said Lucien.

In July, we reported on young people dying in Averill Park. The community held an emergency meeting about the increased number of heroin overdoses in Rensselaer County.

But experts say it's everywhere.

"Some of these drugs are more inclined to be in one area," said Connally. "But not this. Heroin is in the inner cities, it's in the suburbs. There's not one area where it's being seen used more or less than another. It's accessible and it's very, very cheap and easy for kids to get."

Kat says there are some tell-tale signs of heroin addiction. "They should definitely check people's arms, track marks, bruises on their arms. Check to see if they're falling asleep a lot, drowsy a lot, acting totally not like themselves, stealing from the family."

A lot of young heroin addicts quickly get into criminal trouble.

'I don't work, I don't have a job," said Brianna. "I had to lie, manipulate and steal to get everything every day. I would at least have to get about $100 every single day to support my habit. That's how bad it was."

"How many times were you shooting up every day?"

"A lot. I could do up to 10 to 20 times a day."

All three girls credit the staff at Hope House with helping them succeed in their recovery.

"They really get down to the real deep core issues," said Kat. "It's not just the using. It's the reasons why we were using."

Now they are being taught new ways to live.

Lexi is planning to go to college next year. She wants other young people to hear her message.

"Reach out for help. It might seem okay because everyone around you is doing it, but it just gets worse and worse."

"You're going to die. You are going to end up in prison," said Brianna. "This drug tears you apart. It destroys you."