Recent statistics reveal that heroin-related deaths have doubled in 2012 compared to last year, according to local law enforcement officials.
There have been 14 opiate-related deaths this year, according to Bob Wachsmuth of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station’s Juvenile Intervention Team. Last year, there were seven, he said.
He said he’s also waiting on the results of three more toxicology reports that will likely push that total to 17. That number includes four suicides, Wachsmuth said.
“It tells us that more of the heroin addicts, the kids who graduated from lesser drugs … that more of them are dying because more them have graduated into the heroin class,” he said, describing opiates that have addictive and deadly consequences.
“The number of deaths are going to grow in the same proportion over the number of kids who smoke marijuana over the last five years, because they graduate,” Wachsmuth said.
The problem is occurring across the country, said Cary Quashen, who runs local substance-abuse center ACTION Family Counseling. Teenagers need to be informed before they make their first contact with drugs, he said.
“Of course it’s on the rise, as a society, we’re not attacking early drug use as quickly as we should,” Quashen said. “The first time we know that are young kids are using anything like that we need to jump on it hard.”
The problem is that we need to “hard-wire” the message into them at a younger age, Quashen added. He said the city-school-law enforcement’s peer-led partnership, Drug-Free Youth in Town, was a good step toward addressing the problem. The program launched at the beginning of the school year.
“I believe that when we’re young, we have a contract of things in life we’re not going to do,” Quashen said. “What’s great about DFYiT is that it’s going to help kids remember what their priorities are.”