Heroin In Central Illinois High Schools
Heroin is getting into Springfield area high schools, according to local drug treatment centers.
They say more young adults than ever are trying, and eventually overdosing, on the drug.
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Gateway Treatment Center Clinical Supervisor Kasia Loneiwska says about 20 percent of their clients between 13 and 18-years-old come to them already addicted to heroin.
She said part of the problem is it has lost the negative stigma it used to have among the youth, but it has also become a lot easier to get in Springfield.
Erica Deboer is a 24-year-old client at the Gateway Treatment Center. She says she started using heroin last year after transitioning from pain pills for her scoliosis.
"Heroin's cheaper; it's easier to find. A lot quicker to get the effects from."
She says the physical effects of heroin are brutal, but it's other effects that have given her the most problems.
"Guilt, shame, just what I've put my family through," said Deboer.
Clinical supervisors say people even younger than Deboer are getting addicted.
"Heroin and other opiates are now starting to get into the younger generation, and the high schools," Loneiwska said. "And what I'm concerned of is, what if it gets into the grade schools."
She says heroin is very accessible to Springfield's youth; it's cheap, and it isn't looked down upon like it used to be. But the kids have no idea what they're actually getting.
"It could be cut with rat poisoning, it could be cut with drywall -- Anything that has powder."
Addiction often starts with prescription pills, like it did for Brian Andres, who started using heroin to deal with injuries from construction work.
"When the pills were not available, I've used the heroin, and it's taken a toll on my marriage, my personal life, emotionally."
For some it leads to death. Gateway says about ten of their clients have died from heroin overdoses in the last year alone, but clients say treatment can turn things around.
"You have so many people who care about you and want you to succeed," Deboer said. "Where it's like my second family."
Learn more about heroin addiction and how to receive help by visiting our Hooked on Heroin page.