More and more young people are turning to an old drug as they look for a new supply to get high. Heroin use is on the rise in Florida and across the nation, an unfortunate side effect of the crackdown on pill mills.
"I believe what's happening right now is a classic case of supply and demand. The pills were readily accessible a few years ago; now, not so much," says Pinellas County Judge Dee Anna Farnell. "The drug traffickers and the drug trade, they are going to try to meet the need of the addicted people so I believe they came in here and gave an alternative that was cheaper and readily available."
Farnell runs Pinellas County's drug court, helping addicts come clean and stay out of jail.
"What we see is a high-grade heroin and it's really causing a lot of illness and repercussions," continued Farnell.
Another indicator of the problem? According to a new report by the state's medical examiners, heroin continues to be the most lethal drug, which most often causes death.
Drug treatment centers in the Bay Area are also seeing an increase in heroin users.
"The overdose rate in heroin use is skyrocketing," said Dr. Larry Wilson, who works as an addiction specialist at DACCO.
The numbers show a dramatic increase for new admissions at the Tampa drug treatment center. In 2010, 37 people identified heroin as their primary drug. In 2012, that number jumped to 72.
"Once you start, you don't stop," explained Dr. Wilson.
"It's a very, very dangerous situation," agreed Dr. Jason Fields, who works with Dr. Wilson at DACCO.
They say heroin was once considered a ghetto drug back in the 1960s, but these days most patients see nothing wrong with using it to get high. Heroin works in the brain almost the same as pain pills, but has the potential to be even more dangerous.
"At least with prescription pills, it's a pharmaceutical. Heroin is made in the hills of Afghanistan and you don't know what the potency is of the product you're using," added Dr. Wilson.
Heroin has a way of stopping people dead in their tracks, added Dr. Fields.
"There's a saying that you don't see many 40-year-old heroin addicts."