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Heroin addiction on the rise in US, Southern California

Heroin addiction is rising in the US. It's happening more in suburban communities and young people are most vulnerable.
February 3, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
Heroin addiction is on the rise nationwide and in Southern California. It can be a deadly high, and young people are the most vulnerable.

"Black tar" heroin was recently seized during a drug raid in Simi Valley. Law enforcement officials say they are seeing an alarming number of kids ages 18 and younger addicted to heroin.

"Almost every heroin addict that I deal with relapses at some point, even though we'll get them into 90-day programs, yearlong programs where they're doing residential programs. It becomes a lifelong struggle for them once they've started using," said L.A. County Sheriff's Deputy Bill Velek.

Officials say it's happening more and more in suburban communities. Drug experts say it often starts with prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin and Percocet, but that gets expensive. Heroin is much cheaper.

"The cost is about one-tenth of what it costs to buy Oxycontin, so a lot of teens between ages of 15 and 24 cannot afford to buy Oxycontin, but they can afford to buy heroin because it's a cheap high," said drug-addiction expert Dr. Joseph Haraszti.

Haraszti says the number of heroin deaths increased by 250 percent between 1999 and 2009. He says the difficulty is that it's very hard to stay from the drug.

"Even though the physical withdrawal goes away after a short period of time, the psychological craving does not," said Haraszti.

Law enforcement officials say parents should look for signs of heroin use like spoons, needles and aluminum foil.

"When you open it up it has the burn marks on it, which is the evidence of smoking the heroin," said Velek. "Why would your child have a roll of foil in their bedroom or in their car? There is no need to have a roll of foil just in case you need to wrap something up."


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