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The New Face of Heroin Part 2: Monteith’s death shines light on problem

SEATTLE — Thursday night’s episode of “Glee” was a special tribute to its cast member Cory Monteith, the actor who died of a heroin overdose this summer.

heroin3Doctors in Washington state say we need to realize that what happened to Monteith is not an isolated case and that there is a new face of heroin.

Fans were shocked when Monteith died of an overdose, but experts say the 31-year-old actor fits the profile of a new wave of heroin users.

“We typically think of heroin use as IV drug users — those folks that are in alleyways or downtown around the court house,” Frank Couch, the executive director of Science and Management of Addictions, said. “That’s not how it always starts.”

Couch said many young people start with drugs from the medicine cabinet. “There has been an explosion in prescription drugs, opiates. It’s an epidemic.”

That’s made doctors more careful about prescribing the strongest narcotics, which makes them more expensive on the black market. Drug companies have also changed their pills so they can’t be easily smoked or snorted.

Couch said that has led many teens to heroin because it has the same effects as prescription medication and is cheaper.

A new University of Washington study says more 18- to 29-year-olds in Washington seek treatment for heroin addiction than any other drug, and in the last three years the number of fatal overdoses in the state has nearly doubled. Victims include 17-year-old Maceo Neihaus of Port Angeles and 18-year-old Corey Pierce of Snohomish.

Randy Pierce, Corey’s dad, now speaks at local high schools in the hopes of keeping other families from experiencing such a devastating loss.

“I tell them what it’s done to me and to my family and how it affects everyone around them,” Pierce said.

Everyone agrees, the best-case scenario is for kids to never try the drugs. But for those young people who are already in trouble, Couch has a simple message.

“You can get out. Sometimes it depends on who you are, it takes longer for some folks. Sometime it takes multiple treatment episodes, but recovery is possible from opiate use.”

For more information on SAMA, go to samafoundation.org.

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