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City offers look at heroin problem

Posted: August 28, 2012 1:30 a.m.
Updated: August 28, 2012 1:30 a.m.

Any Santa Clarita Valley parent who wants to help protect their child against the perils and pitfalls surrounding the “heroin epidemic” should attend the city’s seminar Wednesday, a drug rehab counselor said.

“Power comes from knowledge. And by attending this meeting, parents will have power in dealing their kids,” said Cary Quashen, owner of Action, a local drug-treatment facility.

On Wednesday, city officials will take a long hard look at the efforts under way to dissuade youngsters from stepping on the path to deadly narcotics with a meeting dubbed, Heroin Kills: One Year Later.

Parents have to “figure out a way of connecting with their kids the way they connect with their friends,” Quashen said.

Teens come home from school, go directly to their rooms and stay “plugged in” with their friends through cellphones, computers and the Internet.

“We have them two minutes, but their friends have them for 16 hours,” he said.

The problem with constant peer pressure is the pressure to experiment with drugs, he said.

“We have a heroin epidemic, not just here in Santa Clarita, but everywhere,” Quashen said. The path to heroin in the Santa Clarita Valley is “drugs of opportunity” that present themselves to teens attending parties, he said.

“They go to a party. They’ve already had a beer or some marijuana and then someone says ‘Try this,’ and since they’re not in their right mind, they take a hit on some pipe and its heroin,” he said.

And, when that happens, it’s often too late.

“Then the challenge is to tell them that what made them feel so good is really bad,” he said.

The city started an outreach campaign, Heroin Kills: The High is a Lie, in response to a spike in heroin related deaths and arrests in the Santa Clarita Valley.

It was meant to inform residents that heroin was in Santa Clarita and devastating families.

One year later, heroin still has a deadly presence in Santa Clarita, according to city officials.

In the last year, at least six young adults from the Santa Clarita Valley, described as in their early 20s, have died from heroin overdoses, said city spokesman Evan Thomason, who is organizing Wednesday’s meeting.

“There’s a seventh overdose recently, but we’re trying to confirm if it’s heroin,” he said.

In addition, four local heroin addicts have killed themselves in the last year.

“You can lump those in with the number of heroin deaths,” Thomason said.

City officials also report four deaths as a result of overdoses from the pharmaceutical Oxycontin in the Santa Clarita Valley.

“It only takes one time,” he said. “One time to fatally overdose on heroin and only one time to become an addict.”

The problem facing local teens is two-fold: an abundance of prescription of drugs, such as Xanax and Vicodin, and an abundance of potent “80 percent pure” heroin.

“Historically, there’s been a stigma about heroin associated with dirty needles and disease,” Thomason said. “Now they can snort it or smoke it.”

City officials and Capt, Paul Becker of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station are putting their faith in a tested “successful” program witnessed in Miami, called DFYiT, Drug-Free Youth in Town program.

“This program is 99.6 percent effective,” Thomason said. “If you’re parent, that statistic should scream at you.”



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