Special Report- Heroin: The Damage Done - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather and Events

Special Report- Heroin: The Damage Done

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Emergency workers say it's a situation that's becoming all to common.  They enter a room to find a person unconscious, suffering from a heroin overdose.

For Ryan Wood, it's an outcome he's experienced six times.

 "I used heroin for  nine years, from the time I was 16 until I was 26," said Wood.  "In that time, I've been to treatment 30 times."

Wood says he became addicted to heroin after shooting up just one time.

"It gives you probably the best feeling that you've ever had in your life," said Wood.  "But it also, the effects of using heroin, it took every single thing in my life away from me."

While Wood and many others are dealing with addiction, many families are coping with death.

 "It's not somebody else's bad kid," said Madeline Sheely.  "It's our kids that we love that this is happening to."

Three years ago, Sheely's son Matthew White died from a heroin overdose.  He was 22-years-old.

 "I think the thing that probably hurt the most, is me watching him be disappointed with himself," said Sheely.  "He didn't mean to do that.  He didn't think that would happen like that."

Despite the dangers, heroin usage in our area is on the rise.

 "For five years we've been hearing about the increase," said Erie County Department of Human Services Director John DiMattio.  "The last two years, it's been a dramatic spike."

It's proving to be deadly.  According to Erie County Coroner Lyell Cook, in 2013, his office dealt with a total of 49 drug related deaths.  Cook says of that total, 26 people had heroin in their system.  In 2014, there's been 17 drug related deaths, eight in which had heroin in their system.

Due to the spike in overdoses, many first responders now carry a drug known as Narcan, which can reverse a heroin overdose instantaneously.  It's administered with an injector device, which is shot up the persons nose.

So where exactly is a majority of this deadly and highly addictive drug coming from?  Narcotics investigator Dennis Tobin of the PA Attorney General's Office explains.

"Wherever there's a need, you're going to find a supply," said Tobin.  "That supply seems to be coming in from Detroit."

According to Tobin, a spike heroin usage means a spike in crime.

 "You're going to have addicts that are committing robberies, that are committing thefts, that are committing larcenies, they're committing crimes of violence," said Tobin.  "This is all revolving around the fact that they have to have the money to get this heroin."

So how does our community handle this problem?  Agencies I spoke seem to agree on three elements, which are prevention, education, and treatment.

There's now an Erie County Heroin Overdose Community Awareness Task Force which is aimed at helping treat addicts and creating awareness.

"I think it's essential that we have something so that we know the resources we have here, in this community." said DiMattio.

Others, like Sheely, are taking their own approach.  She's teamed up with Louise Snyder, who lost her son to an overdose, to create the Facebook page "Friends and Families of Heroin Addicts Talk," or FOHAT.  A video they created now plays in local schools as an educational tool.

"I think it's very powerful," said Sheely.  "It's just normal people, us from Erie, talking about what has happened to them and where they are in life."

Wood will tell you.  Through treatment, there is hope.

 "In recovery, I've been able to go to college, I've been able to get a job where I'm doing something meaningful, helping people," said Wood.  "I met my wife in recovery.  I got married in recovery.  I bought a house, and I'm finally doing meaningful things in my life."

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