Since January, 2012, Jefferson, Shelby and Tuscaloosa counties have recorded more than 50 deaths of young people from heroin. More than 90 percent of the victims were young Caucasian men and women. Over-the-mountain communities can no longer afford to be naive. The drug is here.
One female addict sums it up, "It's a lot closer than they think it is and it's not going away. It's just getting worse."
The director of the Hoover Anti-Drug Coalition, Carissa Anthony, says. "the best advice I give parents is stay vigilant with their children. Have conversations even when the conversations may be uncomfortable. Know what your children are doing. Give them big hugs when they come in and sniff and observe them - their eyes, their behavior. Are they becoming withdrawn? Stay engaged with your children. Set high expectations and hold them accountable"
Parents are in denial that it could happen in their family - to their child. To that Anthony explains, "it's not about trusting your child. It's about the fact that their judgment center is not well developed yet. So, be their judgment center."
This is a war that must be fought in the home, even as law enforcement battles it on the streets. DEA Assistant Special Agent in Charge, Clay Morris says, "I can tell you that the law enforcement community as a whole in the Birmingham area is aware of our heroin supply issue and we are taking very active steps and we are using multi pronged strategies to address that issue."
Law enforcement, however, is at the end of the cycle. What needs to happen is to stop the demand for the product. "If parents will take it seriously when children start to abuse alcohol or marijuana for example. If they intervene at that point they may be able to prevent a tragedy, according to Lt. J.M. Davis of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office. Lt. Davis has seen a heroin victim as young as 17.
Area law enforcement officers advise parents to know what is going on with their child. "Know where they go. Know what's in their room. Risk hurting your child's feeling a little bit," says Hueytown police chief Chuck Hagler. "It's better than waiting until there is a serious drug problem that you have to deal with and rehab." Shelby county sheriff Chris Curry adds "If your child is mad at you because you disguised, ok. That's ok, they'll get over that mad. You'll still have a child."
U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance calls heroin abuse a community wide problem. No family is immune. "The most important advice for parents is don't be afraid to confront this situation head on. That talk could guarantee that child is sitting at the family dinner table come Thanksgiving or Christmastime."
If you have more questions contact your local police, sheriff, US attorney or DEA.
Posted: Nov 21, 2012 11:18 AM CST
Updated: Nov 21, 2012 11:18 AM CST
By Pam Huff, ABC 33/40 News