June 3, 2014
The use of heroin is a growing problem in Central Virginia, something the medical community calls an epidemic, and police say it's leading to an increase in crimes like larceny.
"Sometimes you have this idea of what a druggie or an alcoholic is. They're teachers, lawyers, doctors, moms, they're you and I," said Kristen Danas Carty, a counselor with Blue Ridge First Step.
There's no one face of heroin addiction, but it's something local officials have seen growing in recent years.
"We have some evidence, anecdotal evidence, that as prescription painkillers are harder to come by, they're harder to get, they're costly, some folks are switching over and using cheaper, easier-to-get drugs," said Lt. Todd Hopwood of the Albemarle County Police Department.
People will find ways to get those drugs by any means necessary, which is why police say the rise in heroin use is leading to a rise in crimes like larceny.
"Last year, some of our cases that were directly related to property crimes could be connected to an addiction to painkillers," Hopwood said.
Often, heroin addiction begins with painkillers. When the supply runs out, patients are already addicted and look for alternatives.
"Heroin is an epidemic now. It's cheaper and easier to get than any other street drug," Carty said. "We've seen more and younger people coming in to our treatment facility for heroin than we have in the past."
Blue Ridge First Step aims to help people fight their addiction by developing plans and educating clients about the best ways to succeed. The success rate often depends on the client's motivation and ability to put in work to stop the addiction.
"No addiction affects one person. It's a family disease," Carty said. "Addiction is a disease and that's what we have to remember."
However, some people are seeking treatment for an addiction to heroin find a roadblock. Insurance companies don't often cover help.
"I had a physician once tell me from the insurance company it was being denied because most of the times, heroin addicts will kick it on their own and a treatment plan or facility doesn't help. And I kind of thought that was ridiculous," Carty said.
It's a disease that many drug agencies say continues to spread, and one that police hope can die down before more people are affected.
"It's believed that it's a trend, and that the trend is coming," Hopwood said.