Face of heroin addiction changing

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. -- The face of a heroin addict is changing. It's no longer being used by someone on the street in a back alley. Now it's your neighbor or the mom driving this week's carpool.

"It crosses all demographics. We're seeing people getting hooked on pain killers from mothers to school aged kids. What's so alarming is its crossing all boundaries," said Captain Phil Trent of the South Bend Police Department.

Heroin has hit St Joseph County hard.

Because it isn't talked about openly, it is silently destroying lives, tearing apart families, and killing people.

Experts say it all starts with pain killers.

"Prescription painkillers are a gateway drug to heroin use," said Trent. "These people get addicted to pain killers, pain killer runs out, they can't get their hands on it and the only alternative to getting that high is using heroin."

Because of the way people are introduced to heroin, it's no longer "a behind the dumpster drug."

"There are lots of I use the generic term housewives who have gotten hooked on Vicodin and they can't get that and some of them progress to heroin," said Dr. Andres Gulijas, a clinical psychologist. "Some days you'd come to our clinic and if you sat in there you would see people like yourself. You get surprised because you expect to see something worse."

Police say in a lot of cases, parents are using heroin and then getting behind the wheel. That is extremely dangerous because heroin is a downer.

"When you get the wrong dosage you're dead with a needle in your arm. You don't have time to call for help," said Trent.

All of the experts say heroin addiction is a serious public health issue.

These people are not necessarily criminals, but people who are sick and need help.

In St. Joseph County, there's no in-patient long-term facility to treat heroin addiction.

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