Education could be only way out of this heroin hell

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Most people in law enforcement realize we're not going to arrest our way out of the heroin and fentanyl epidemic that has devastated the Greater Rochester area.

Sure, there's a criminal component to it, but more than that there's the addiction component.

Now we're finding that despite the millions of dollars that have been put aside to combat the epidemic, fatal overdoses continue to pile up.

The major reason fighting this scourge is so tough is the same reason many people start using in the first place: the incredibly painful symptoms that rear their ugly head when a user tries to quit.

We've spoken to victims of this drug who were prescribed opioids to help manage their pain after a debilitating injury or surgery.

One said about a week after her prescription ran out she began having what she thought were almost flu-like symptoms.

She dragged herself around in increasing discomfiture for weeks before it dawned on her that she was possibly suffering from opioid addiction. So she tried to get another prescription, but it was denied.

Within a week she was injecting herself with heroin, finding it much more plentiful on the street than it was through a doctor.

Cheaper, too.

You can get a heroin fix for about half the cost of a pack of cigarettes.

So if you can't arrest your way out of the problem and you can't spend your way out of the problem, what' left?

Education. We can try to educate our way out of the problem.

They're trying it already weeknights down at the Rochester Community Recovery Center. There, four nights a week for three hours a night, teenagers come together to talk about their addiction.

They are there because they are addicts: some have relied on alcohol, others on various drugs.

The program at the recovery center relies on peer leaders who have fought back from addiction and love showing others their path to the straight life. The peer leaders, who are paid, help newcomers feel comfortable in talking to the group about their situation.

Another educational component is provided by Rochester Police whose LEAD (Law Enforcement Against Drugs) program teaches students at Rochester's elementary, junior high and highs schools about the dangers of addiction as well as strategies to reject peer pressure to use drugs in the first place.

We've done many stories on heroin addicts who have found sobriety, and every time we do one, they describe the horrors of their addiction at the height of their abuse; it is a very sad and horrific hell they go through.

Our young people have to understand the horrors that await if they pick up that needle and inject that poison.

Users will tell you it often takes only one high to put you on a path to destruction and possible death.

And when it comes to drugs, people can's say, "That's the parents' responsibility, not the schools."

Rochester Police Chief Paul Toussaint said in a recent interview that he's learned that a child brought up in a household where a parent uses and perhaps even dies from a heroin overdose is likely to replicate their parent's choices, not avoid them.

We have to make sure every single child knows when it comes to drugs, "you use, you lose."

- HT

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