A wave of heroin addiction is sweeping across this country. The number of people getting hooked has jumped significantly over the last 10 years. The faces of these addicts are also changing; more of them are younger, female and white.
Experts are calling this problem an “epidemic” in southern Nevada.
Those who knew Aly Blackmore in high school in Henderson describe her as a happy student who loved her friends and volleyball.
Blackmore says, for years, she had a secret life fueled by an addiction to heroin.
“I was the type that would do anything,” she said. “If you handed it to me, I was going to do it, and 90 percent of the time, it was heroin.”
She says finding her fix was easy.
“We could walk out onto the street and find someone,” she said.
She says her own mother, a nurse, initially had no idea.
“When everybody found out, it was a big shock. Nobody knew. Nobody expected it,” she said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, heroin use has more than doubled among 18 to 25-year-old people. Use among women went up 100 percent. Heroin use by White people increased 114 percent.
Dave Marlon, founder of Solutions Recovery, says the old socioeconomic stereotype of drug users no longer holds.
“This is showing up in Green Valley. It’s showing up in Summerlin. It’s showing up downtown. The opioid epidemic is the number one health problem in our community,” he said.
He says since his rehabilitation facility opened in Las Vegas 10 years ago, more women and teens are coming through the door.
“I believe you can buy a $10 balloon of heroin in any school in the valley today,” Marlon said.
He says four out of five heroin users start with prescription pills – something 24-year-old Las Vegas native Taylor Burnett knows all too well.
“Pretty much everything it touched, it messed up,” he said.
Burnett recently got clean at Solutions Recovery after getting into drugs at age 11. He started with pot before moving on to pills and heroin.
“It was just a dark, dark time in my life,” he said. “I don’t want to go back there again.”
“I went to seven funerals in 2015, and five of them were heroin related,” Blackmore said.
Blackmore, now 21, is married and mother of a 7-month-old baby girl. She credits her family for her new, heroin-free life.
“Some of us have to die so others could live,” she said. “It’s a terrible way to look at it, but I am grateful that I made it out.”
Heroin deaths in the United States are up for three years in a row. It’s the number one killer of illegal drug users. Reports say painkillers actually kill more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined.
Experts say both painkillers and heroin are opioids, meaning they give users the same kind of high. Once people no longer need painkillers for pain, some start using them to feel relaxed. It doesn’t take long to get hooked; experts say, for some, it just takes a few tries.