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Prescription drug abusers turning to heroin

7:30 PM, Mar 6, 2013   |    comments
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AP image of heroin packets

HOLLAND, Mich. (WZZM) -- Rich or poor, educated or not, experts say no community is immune to heroin use. WZZM 13 is taking a closer look at heroin use in Ottawa County, after two men died at the same home near Hudsonville within weeks of each other.

Heroin users are less than 1% of the inmates at the Ottawa County Jail.

"More people in jail for using marijuana and cocaine," says Lieutenant Steve Barr with the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department.

However, drug counselors say far too many heroin users are ending up dead.

"We deal with people that die all the time," says Rich Campbell, a drug counselor and Executive Director of O.A.R in Holland. "We've definitely seen an increase in use."

In fact, investigators say two heroin users died at the same Ottawa County home within weeks of each other.

"We've seen straight A students, valedictorians, across the board, there is no stereotype when it comes to this," says Campbell.

In many cases experts say prescription pain killers become the gateway to heroin.

"The opiate pain medications are very popular and they're being prescribed a lot more, and as a result you see this trend taking place," says Campbell. " It (heroin) is also an opiate, but it's much much cheaper, it's going to be half the cost or even a quarter of the cost."

However, heroin has an added risk.

"When you purchase heroin on the street, you don't know what you're getting and you don't know what it's been cut with," says Campbell.

Experts say that's why overdosing is common and why addicts are even more in need of close family and friends.

"They bring their friend here, they don't tell their friend 'you need to go get help,' they say 'let me go with you,'" says Campbell.

Experts say heroin addicts need supervision for at least five years. They're also expecting an increase in Hepatitis C, because of needle use that's associated with heroin.

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