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Special Report: Heroin in the City

With more opioid overdoses and younger addicts, the heroin crisis is a dangerous formula of supply and demand. And that demand is growing.

Posted: Oct 26, 2018 7:56 PM
Updated: Dec 20, 2018 1:10 PM

LANE COUNTY, Ore. -- A heroin crisis has been sweeping through Lane County with more than 30 overdoses in just the past month.

With more opioid overdoses and younger addicts, the heroin crisis is a dangerous display of supply and demand. And that demand is growing.

One addict said the supply is flooding our streets, hidden in plain sight.

“It’s taking people out left and right,” Jacob Lucas said. “It’s soul sucking.”

In Lane County more heroin overdoses are pushing addicts to the brink of death, like in one body cam video which shows Eugene police officers saving an addict’s life.

“Heroin is definitely flooded out here,” Lucas said.

And it’s stronger when it’s laced with an opioid called fentanyl.

“The stuff that’s in it is just too powerful,” Lucas said.

Lucas said he overdosed on heroin four times last year before turning his life around.

“I know for a fact if I can get clean and sober, anybody can,” Lucas said in September.

Lucas, a licensed barber, was more than 10 months sober but recently relapsed on heroin.

Since just last month, Lane County Public Health has recorded 63 opioid overdoses.

“Every second can count in these situations,” said Dr. Charlotte Ransom, Peace Health ER Medical Director.

Ransom said overdoses happen to people of all ages, even teenagers.

“Young people who have such potential in their life. To see them fall into this hole is really, really unfortunate,” she said.

KEZI 9 News compared heroin’s death toll in Lane County to the rest of Oregon and found that Lane County has been above the state’s average seven of the past nine years.

“Thank God for Narcan,” said Robert Jubber, a peer support specialist with Lane County Treatment Court.

Narcan is an overdose-reversing drug. The effects are temporary and a person still needs medical attention after, but it helps save lives.

Narcan is more accessible than ever before in Lane County.

“We can’t blame it on, oh just because Narcan is out there people are going to use heroin because of this or that,” Jubber said.

Jubber said there’s no single solution to curb Lane County’s heroin crisis.

“It’s not about a magic want or golden ticket,” Jubber said.

He said it’s about an invitation to acknowledge addicts as people.

Jubber said they need their community’s help.

“You got to have some sort of hope within yourself,” Jubber said. “Otherwise, it’s a battle that you can’t win by yourself.”

Recovering addicts said education and involvement are what you can do to help fight the heroin crisis -- from addicts knowing what resources are available to parents being involved in their children’s lives.

A study from the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that by the time teens reach their senior year of high school, half of those students will have tried an illegal drug.

More than 20 percent of those seniors will have taken a prescription drug for non-medical purposes.

Researchers said this experimenting can often lead to addiction.

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