Special Report: Hooked on Heroin

Hooked on Heroin

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Since the year 2002, heroin related overdose deaths increased by 286%.

Among new heroin users, three out of four reported having abused prescription pills.

ABC 17 has been digging into the connection between heroin and opiates for the past eight months and found there is a growing epidemic of heroin use and deaths in Mid-Missouri.

Back in May, ABC 17 did a special report over prescription drug overdose.

Now, we're talking to Mid-Missourians who say heroin has directly affected them.

"I lost a son in September 2011 to a combined Xanax and heroin overdose," said Jim Marshall.

One woman, who did not want to be identified, said she took heroin and ended up in the hospital.  First responders could not find a heartbeat and she wasn't breathing.

"I basically died," said the woman.

Even after almost dying and going to jail from using heroin, she said she could not stop using the drug.

She said it all started when she was given a prescription drug medication by a doctor when she was 16-years-old. It wasn't until about ten years later when she first used heroin.

She said she was "absolutely" addicted after the first use of the drug.

Both Marshall and the woman said prescription pills played a role in the way heroin has affected their lives.

"For most people, if you're addicted to pain pills, it's only a matter of time before you're addicted to heroin. I was spending $200 a day on heroin."

Marshall told ABC 17 News that most people think someone has to take a large amount of a drug to actually overdose. However, that isn't always the case.

"I know when he passed, the toxicology report said it was a tiny, small trace that he had in his body," said Marshall about his son Cody.

He wants to use Cody's story to educate others on the dangers and effects of heroin use.

"You're never the same after losing a child, but it has motivated me to use his story to help others and keep his name alive."

Since Cody's death in 2011, Marshall has been educating himself on the use of heroin and speaking at various schools and establishments in Missouri.

"We're not teaching kids or raising kids to cope in a healthy way. When they get in trouble we tend to move them from the troubled situation.  We don't let them suffer consequences... You have to learn how to fail and get back up."

University Hospital emergency room doctors say they've seen a steady increase in patients coming in for heroin overdose.

"Heroin actually covers all age groups.  We see people as young as in their teens to even older adults using heroin," said University of Missouri physician, Christopher Sampson.

According to the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services, the male rate of heroin use involved deaths were about four times the female rate.

In particular, white men accounted for more than 75% of heroin overdose deaths.

Sergeant Scott White with the Missouri State Highway Patrol said being thrown in jail isn't the only thing people have to worry about if they are caught with heroin.

"Heroin is mixed with all of these other items that we don't know about.  There's no product control, there's no safety. I mean, this is an illicit market and we see year after year people die of heroin drug overdose," said White.

The woman who said she's been addicted to heroin for four years wishes she could turn off the disease of addiction. She said if she could make it stop, she would.

"Nobody goes out looking to be a drug addict. I have yet to meet someone who enjoyed this life."


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