Getting heroin is as easy as looking up your friends on Facebook, and it’s become a growing problem in the Santa Clarita Valley.
In the last year alone, there have been more than 100 arrests linked to heroin usage. Now, the city of Santa Clarita is taking action with a symposium of public officials, community leaders, teachers and medical professionals who are stepping forward to give leadership, guidance and information to local parents and teens.
“This is an extremely important issue for us in Santa Clarita,” said Mayor Marsha McLean to a standing-room-only crowd at the Santa Clarita Activities Center. “It’s a deadly serious issue and it has already devastated many families.”
“It’s significant,” said Sheriff’s Capt. Paul Becker. “We’ve had nine overdose deaths since December 2009. If you take a look at the number of kids 18 to 27 that are dying using heroin, it’s pretty telling that we have a problem.”
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Heroin is an opiate drug that’s synthesized from morphine, a naturally occurring substance extracted from the seed pod of the Asian opium poppy plant.”
The drug usually appears as a white or brown powder. It can also appear as a black sticky substance, known as “black tar heroin.” Heroin is often snorted, injected or smoked.
When it enters the brain, it binds itself to the user’s opioid receptors and can cause a euphoric high – if it doesn’t paralyze your ability to breath normally first.
But none know the price of addiction better than local teens who are currently in rehabilitation programs such as ACTION Family Counseling, which is run by CEO Cary Quashen, who spoke at the symposium. A young teen actually came up to him during the question-and-answer session and asked to be put into the rehab program for crystal meth addiction.
“The good thing about Santa Clarita is that we are so proactive,” Quashen said after the “Heroin Kills” symposium. “Events like (Heroin Kills) – you don’t see that in all cities. You just don’t. We need to put up more of these events and educate our kids. We need to educate our parents. We need to talk to our kids about drugs, alcohol, sex and rock n’ roll. If they don’t learn it from us, they are going to learn it from someone else.”
When talking to parents and school administrators, the biggest concern raised is not about youths getting drugs from the average street dealer, but from the same kids in school who are their friends and peers.
“(Heroin addicts) are no longer that sinister ’70 TV look,” City Councilman Frank Ferry told the audience.
“Parents,” Ferry said, “look to the youth on the left and right of you. That’s the users of the Santa Clarita Valley.”
The city of Santa Clarita’s “Heroin Kills” symposium can be viewed online here: http://www.scvtv.com/html/city083011heroinkillsbtv.html