Community meeting tackles heroin problem

Posted at: 12/02/2013 5:51 PM
Updated at: 12/02/2013 6:15 PM
By: Kumi Tucker

AVERILL PARK -- Experts say heroin is now everywhere. Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple says the problem is out of control. It's getting young people hooked, and it's killing them.

Jennifer O'Neil-Haggerty does substance abuse education in Averill Park, and she's getting ready to speak at a public forum to families about drugs like heroin that are quickly gaining in popularity.

"We'll touch on the risk of prescription drugs and how it usually turns to heroin and usually it's a fatal overdose in the end. And unfortunately in our community we have lost several young adults to opiate addiction," she said.

In July, NewsChannel 13 reported on young people dying in Averill Park. That month, the community took part in an emergency meeting about the increased number of heroin overdoses in Rensselaer County.

Experts say marijuana is a huge gateway drug, and addicts are starting at a young age.

"It's everywhere in the county," said O'Neil-Haggerty. "It doesn't matter where you live, if you're urban, or suburban, it's everywhere. I think parents need to know that typically it's not what they think a heroin addict is, which is somebody on the streets, maybe somebody who's lost their job. Typically, teenagers start with prescription drugs and they can get addicted to them. And then they turn straight to heroin."

Averill Park is being proactive, but the problem is certainly not confined to Rensselaer County.

Albany County Sheriff's Senior Investigator William Rice says heroin is flooding the streets.

"We've had a couple overdoses that we've handled in the hill towns regarding heroin use. We had a 21-year-old that overdosed recently and there's definitely a problem with that drug," he said.

Rice says they're trying to go after the big dealers.

"It takes one time. One time you do it, you're hooked. And it's an opiate, so it's a tough drug to kick. It's going to be a struggle for that person to get off of that. And usually it increases, the doses they need to get high increases, so therefore they're using more, and then it costs more money. It's a horrible drug."

Investigator Rice says young people are hiding their addiction from their families, sometimes shooting in between their toes, or getting tattoos at the injection sites to hide the tracks.

The community meeting is hosted by Rage Against Alcohol and Drugs and it will take place Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the West Sand Lake Fire House on Route 43.