San Diego County authorities say they've seen a 229 percent increase in heroin users between the ages of 18-25. NBC 7's Christine Haas speaks with Tom Lenox of the DEA about this alarming trend among this growing group of young users in San Diego and beyond.
San Diego County authorities are seeing an increase in heroin abuse and it has many parents and health officials concerned.
The DEA's Tim Lenox says the trend is catching on in wealthy neighborhoods and good schools. San Diego County authorities say they've seen a 229 percent increase in heroin users between the ages of 18 and 25.
"As a parent it really scared me when we started seeing in 2010 -- teenagers overdosing and dying from heroin. And we started seeing the heroin users’ age category going down," said Lenox.
Lenox has seen it coming in by the kilo from Mexican cartels.
"We are having to fight this battle in all four corners of the county and all four corners of the country," he explained.
San Diego has quick access to the black tar that junkies smoke or cook in spoons -- and shoot with a needle. Dealers make it cheap for kids already addicted to pricey prescription drugs like Oxycontin.
Doctors say heroin slows the breathing -- until there's not enough oxygen coming into the body -- and finally, the heart stops beating.
San Diego police and the county medical examiners offices couldn't tell NBC 7 San Diego how many people died from heroin abuse last year, but the ME office did say heroin claimed 71 lives in 2010.
That means more teens died from heroin overdoses than in the entire past decade.
The statistics haunt Robin Halstead. Her only son, Ethan, became an addict in middle school.
She says his road to heroin began in the medicine cabinet. He started using prescription drugs, but the pills got too expensive. It didn't take long before much cheaper opiate became his drug of choice. He overdosed and died when he was just 19.
"It's the most horrible thing, hurtful thing any human can go through... nothing can hurt me more, nothing," Halstead told NBC 7.
Scripps Hospital has a treatment center in La Jolla and counselors offer weekend workshops to educate parents about the signs of drug use and ways to prevent drug experimentation in the first place.
Just click here for more information about those awareness workshops.