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Our View: Heroin has injected itself into the SCV

Posted: August 19, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: August 19, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

If you’re the parent of a teen in the Santa Clarita Valley, chances are, your child knows someone who’s using heroin.
It sounds like hyperbole, but it’s truer than you might think. Local drug use is huge, especially among our teens and young adults.

Given the SCV’s quiet, suburban appeal, it’s nothing less than shocking that there have been 108 heroin-related arrests in the last year.

And that’s not counting the seven fatal overdoses this year of people 23 and younger from a variety of prescription and illegal drugs — or the countless more that haven’t been reported to law enforcement because no one died.

The stereotypical image of the pale, skinny, strung-out 20- or 30-something from a broken home, shooting up in the dark alley is no longer accurate.

Today’s and tomorrow’s heroin addicts are living in our homes, are members of local high school sports teams and best friends with your kids.

What used to be a long, gradual descent into the depths of full-blown addiction has been fast-tracked in recent years with teens stealing heavy-hitting prescription drugs from their parents’ medicine cabinets. And the move from taking Vicodin and Oxycontin to smoking/snorting/shooting heroin is a much shorter path than you might think.

And, as Capt. Paul Becker, of the SCV Sheriff’s Department, said at a recent meeting with The Signal’s Editorial Board, “Once a kid is shooting up, they’re already over the edge.”

The dangers of heroin cannot be overstated. It’s not a casual- or occasional-use drug, as it develops physiological addiction in users almost instantly — or it kills them.

As City Manager Ken Pulskamp said at the Editorial Board meeting, “It’s not like in the ’50s, when people were telling you that if you smoked pot, you’d die. No one ever found someone dead with a joint in their mouth, but we are finding kids dead with needles in their arms.”

Pulskamp noted at the meeting, the usual purity of heroin is about 7 percent, but what the Sheriff’s Department has been finding lately is closer to 70 percent pure, which can be lethal, especially to new users. And it’s cheap enough for teens to afford.

So that’s why we’re lucky to have a Sheriff’s Department and City Council that are being proactive in the quest to get this life-ending drug away from our impressionable youth.

In an effort to help spread the word across the valley and beyond, the city has launched a website, HeroinKills.org, and is hosting a heroin symposium Aug. 30 at the Santa Clarita Activities Center.

The event will feature information for parents about the drug and how to protect their children from it. And it will also host guest speakers, including a recovering addict, a drug counselor, parents of addicted local youth and members of law enforcement and health care.

This symposium, however, is a first step on getting a handle on this problem. Further vigilance by parents, law enforcement and city officials is needed to keep the problem from getting worse.

Parents, talk to your kids about this deadly serious topic, because they’re closer to it than ever before. And involvement now could be the difference between seeing them go off to college or ending up as a statistic.

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