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Heroin addiction 'an epidemic'
ALBANY -- Police and drug counselors are calling it an epidemic, the most alarming of our time. Addiction to heroin, particularly by teenagers and young adults, is skyrocketing.
Experts say one piece of state legislation may contribute to the problem. Now with the death of Hollywood star Philip Seymour Hoffman, found with a needle in his arm, a heightened concern about what some people are finding in the heroin people are using.
One recovering heroin addict spoke to CBS6 about his problem, his path to a better life, and the struggle people like him face every day.
"It was just living in complete hell."
First marijuana, then prescription drugs. When he couldn't find those, heroin found him. This man, whose identity we're concealing, had a good job, a good family in Latham, and when he lost all of that, he even turned to crime so he could fill his fix.
He described the drug as bringing him "complete euphoria. Just all your problems go away, it just numbs your whole body."
He went on to say, "it seems that it's everywhere in the suburbs because it's just getting cheaper and cheaper and cheaper for people to use."
This man told us he spent thousands of dollars a week feeding his addiction.
More than half the people for whom the Addictions Care Center of Albany works are heroin addicts. It's been a noticable increase since what's called I-STOP was signed in to law. It cracks down on over-prescribed drugs.
When asked if it has pushed people to use heroin, Executive Director Keith Stack said, "I don't think there's any question. The steps to control prescription drug abuse has resulted in street heroin abuse."
The problem is so bad now, at least in Albany County, that Sheriff's Deputies will begin carrying a nasal spray called NARCAN in their cars to counter the effects of a heroin overdose. Officers are getting more calls, and in the rural areas, it may take too long for emergency medical responders to arrive. Rensselaer County uses it now, and used it to help a man who overdosed just last week.
But even more dangerous than heroin is what could be added to it. In some cases fentanyl is being added to the mixture -- a prescription narcotic that could be 100 times more potent than morphine. The ACCA says that's what makes it fatal -- and many those who think they're taking their regular of heroin may not know it's a heroin mixture. The organization also believes fentanyl is found in heroin in our area.
"We need to get in to the schools earlier and talk to youngsters when they're adolescents, rather than when their teens are in college in their twenties," Stack said.
The recovering heroin addict who spoke to CBS6 is in his thirties now and clean for almost a year, is now working on getting his life back together. He'll soon be married, and his family has welcomed him back -- and needs them more than he needs to get a drug to avoid withdrawal.
"Every day, waking up sick, the worst feeling in the world, feeling like I wanted to die and that I was going to die." He feels like he will be in recovery forever.
"I know if I pick up another drug, everything that happened to me will happen again."
A community forum will be held at the Albany College of Pharmacy to talk about the epidemic of heroin. Its scheduled for March 11th at 6:00 pm.