Hooked On Heroin: The Face Of Addiction

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There is a problem on the streets of Watertown that nobody has a solution to.

It's a problem that Amanda knows first hand.

She was just 15 when she first tried heroin.

"I instantly fell in love with it. I don't know - just everything I had ever been looking for was just right there," she said.

That same sensation provided by heroin is being felt by an increasing number of people in Watertown.

It's a microcosm of an epidemic across the northeastern United states.

"They can make more money on heroin up here than they can in other areas of the state. Although unfortunately, our prices in heroin are going down," said Jefferson Country Assistant District Attorney Krystina Mills.

Proof of the problem can be seen in the county Medical Examiner's Office.

Between 2000 and 2007, the medical examiner says a heroin overdose caused one death.

Since 2007, that number is 9, with four cases pending.

Moving from 2011 to 2012, the number of accidental overdoses doubled.

"Very concerned about that. It's indicative of the addictive drug use and the recreational drug use. Largely it's other opiates but heroin is increasing," said Stephen Jennings, public information officer for the Medical Examiner's Office.

If you want to truly understand why drug trafficking is so potent in the north country, you don't have to look any further than right here Interstate 81.

Typically, the hard drugs, such as heroin, traffic north from areas like Syracuse, Scranton and even as far south as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

It's express access to the streets of Watertown for heroin.

"The majority of the state highways, depending on where you're coming from, are just ideal to travel," said Metro-Jeff Drug Task Force Investigator Chris Cuppernell.

That makes it easy to sneak drugs into the city.

So why heroin and why the sudden increase?

Many point to I-STOP, a piece of legislation signed in 2012 that curbed the use of prescription drugs.

Investigators say when prescription drugs became less available, heroin became the easiest and most accessible thing to turn to.

"Saying that it wasn't the right thing to stop drug abuse with prescription drugs when we know that that was a huge problem because it would push to some other kind of drug abuse, I don't think is the right way to look at it. I think we need to look at each problem and find a solution," said state Senator Patty Ritchie (R. - 48th District).

So what is that solution?

In Part 2 of Hooked on Heroin, we'll take a closer look at that, as well as examine Amanda's path to getting clean.

You can see Chris Horvatits' reports Wednesday and Thursday on 7 News at 6. 

Friday, November 21, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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