From meth to heroin: 'They'll do almost anything to get that next fix'

ROSEBURG, Ore. -- A decade ago, Oregon, and Douglas County in particular, was overrun with meth labs, but the face of drug abuse is changing in the state.

Meth has more and more been replaced with another drug, one that may be much harder to get rid of.

Years ago, officials say meth was the drug of choice for many drug abusers, but these days, they say that heroin use is on the rise.

Meth came on the scene in the 90s, and quickly became a major problem.

In the early 2000s, the state took steps to fight the drug.

Several of meth's major ingredients, like Sudafed, became prescription drugs.

Lt. Pat Moore of the Douglas Interagency Narcotics Team says that step alone made local meth production much more difficult. "Meth labs have all but disappeared actually," Moore said.

With meth in short supply, Moore says many addicts switched to prescription pills.

Drugs like Oxycontin are synthetic opiates, so Moore says it was a natural progression for those addicted to prescription pills to move on to another, cheaper opiate: heroin.

The drug is incredibly addictive, says Dr. John Gardin, the Chief of Clinical Operations for ADAPT in Roseburg. "About 20, 25 percent of the population who tries an opiate, not for prescription but for recreation, is going to become addicted," he said.

Moore says that's made his job tougher. He says a person high on meth is reckless, but the withdrawal from heroin can drive a person to do incredibly dangerous things in order to get their next high.

"A person who's in withdrawal symptoms from heroin is incredibly desperate," said Moore. "It's an angry, freezing, hot desperate pain, that they'll do almost anything to get that next fix."

Moore says stopping heroin abuse won't be as easy as stopping meth production. "Oregon was one of the leaders, it wasn't *the* leader but it was one of the leaders on putting those pre-cursors behind the counter, requiring identification, making it more difficult to cook," he said. "Well, we don't really have that opportunity for heroin because it's not being produced here."

Both Lt. Moore and Dr. Gardin believe the best way to combat heroin addiction is to stop it before it starts. "It's a lot easier to prevent it than it is to fix it," Gardin said.

He believes that prevention starts with children.

Parents are being urged to get involved in the conversation with kids about the dangers of these drugs. "We need to be on our toes with our young people," he said.

Moore agrees. "There has to be really clear messages from parents: it's not okay to use drugs."

Officials say that is one of the best ways to help fight drug addiction, and stop it before it ever starts.

Parents should be talking with their kids about drug addiction on a regular basis, to help make sure that their children don't become one of the many adults struggling with drug addiction.