"I was convinced I was going to die using heroin. That was my goal. That was my daily, daily struggle," said 23-year-old Alex Waxman, a recovering addict who spoke to parents, teens and young adults gathered for a heroin symposium at Granada Hills High School.
His mother, Jody Waxman, told the harrowing story of finding her son unconscious and not breathing after an overdose.
"It was the scariest time of my entire life. To see your kid lying on the floor, not breathing and with paramedics all around," she said.
Police in the San Fernando Valley and drug-abuse experts say they're seeing an alarming number of kids, ages 18 and younger, addicted to heroin.
"Heroin has become an epidemic in the San Fernando Valley, and unfortunately, the dealers are out here in the San Fernando Valley too," said Dennis Poncher, founder of B.I.L.Y (Because I Love You).
Experts say part of the problem is the low cost of Mexican black tar heroin and it's high availability.
Also, many young people smoke or snort the drug rather than shoot up with syringes. That may make it more difficult for parents to spot the warning signs of drug abuse.
"To find out it was heroin was completely shocking. I couldn't even imagine. It was never even on my radar," said Stacy Wattles, a parent of a recovering addict.
Parents of heroin addicts say if you think your child has a drug problem, you're probably right. Their advice is to get them tested and into treatment as soon as possible.