Mar 20, 2014 7:47 PM by Eric Ross
Heroin overdoses in Colorado are at their highest point in nearly a decade. Local drug enforcement agents are calling this an epidemic sweeping across the nation.
Heroin use in the U.S. has doubled since 2007. The latest statistics indicate nearly 670,000 people use the drug. Sadly, not all are alive today.
"The immediate effect is an overwhelming warm rush feeling," Tim, a former heroin addict, said. "$20 would last me a couple days. It got to the point where I was spending $200 to $300 a day."
It didn't take long for Tim to get hooked. After becoming dependent on the drug, he turned to shoplifting to support his habit.
For the past 7 years, Tim has been in and out of the justice system.
"I hit rock bottom when I was in jail," he said.
After being released last year, Tim decided to get help at AspenPointe, an agency offering counseling for those struggling with addiction.
"Overdose is such a potential for heroin," substance abuse counselor Bonna Machlan said. "It's a really tough struggle to kick the habit because the withdrawal is lousy. That's when people relapse and use again."
Matt Barden with the Colorado Springs DEA office targets drug traffickers and manufacturers, the roots of the drug epidemic.
"Heroin is a death sentence," he said. "It's like playing Russian Roulette. Over the past 18 months to 2 years, heroin use has picked up everywhere."
In January, agents seized close to five pounds of heroin in the small town of Rocky Ford. A few weeks later, the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office seized a pound of heroin at a home on West 20th Street.
On a national scale, 15 teens recently overdosed on heroin in Camden, New Jersey.
Heroin use and addiction appears to be more prevalent than ever. According to the DEA, a pound of heroin 20 years ago would cost around $250,000. In today's market, you can buy a kilo for around $12,000 to $14,000.
"A drug dealer or drug cartel's primary goal is to get people hooked on their drug," Barden explained.
The price drop for heroin has been appealing to many users who previously used expensive painkillers or other illegal substances to get high.
"When I moved here, I was surprised at how easy anything you want is available in a town this size," Tim said.
Through group therapy and counseling, Tim has put heroin behind him. He started treatment in September of last year and admits, recovery hasn't been a walk in the park. Now that he's overcome that obstacle, he's looking forward to the future.
"I want to go back to school and have recently thought about going into counseling," he said. "It would be nice to show other people that there is hope out there."
The state health department reported 91 deaths resulting from heroin use in 2012.
If you or someone you know wants help, contact AspenPointe at 719-572-6100. You can also visit them on the web at AspenPointe.org.
Below is a list of other helpful agencies and phone numbers for anyone seeking assisance: