Children say heroin readily available to them


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Courtney Orton reportingAn alarming trend is being noticed in emergency rooms in Utah. Children as young as 12 years old are overdosing on heroin. It's a drug once confined to inner-city neighborhoods that's turning up in upper-middle class suburbia in towns like St. George. Children say they have no trouble finding a fix, even in the schoolyard.

Sometimes it starts at home with pain pills from their parents' medicine cabinet, soon they're hooked and graduate to street drugs. Other children are introduced by their friends. Either way, drug use among teenagers is no longer shocking; but now, there are cases involving children fresh out of elementary school.

Kylee told us, "The more I did it and didn't have it, I would start throwing up." She was addicted to heroin. "I was in ninth grade."

Ninth grade, a time when most girls are worried about teenage crushes or making the soccer team, Kylee worried about getting her next fix. "It ruins your life. It kills. It's jut not worth it," she says.

It's happening even younger. Kylee told us, "I've heard of some seventh-graders doing it." They're children too young to appreciate the risk. In fact, her best friend died of an overdose in his bedroom. "No one ever thought that anyone would die, and then someone did," she says.

Last August, a 13-year-old girl in St. George was arrested for having heroin at school. Students reported seeing her using a syringe in the bathroom. It's a tale that is alarmingly common, even in the upper-middle-class neighborhoods of St. George.

In all of 2006, emergency room doctors at Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George treated two teens ages 13-18 for heroin overdoses. In 2007 they treated four. And in the first five months of this year, ER doctors have already treated three.

Dr. Robb Benson, with Dixie Regional Medical Center, says, "I don't know how statistically significant that is, but anecdotally it is definitely evidence of an increase."

Narcotics officers say heroin use among middle school students, while alarming, is not a surprising trend -- drug dealers don't discriminate on age.

Lt. Rich Ferguson with the Utah County Major Crimes Task Force, said, "They don't care who they deal to. They don't care about age, they just care that you have money."

Just $10 for a balloon of heroin --- in some cases, it's easier to come by in St. George than a six-pack of beer. "You just meet people that do it too, and then they have dealers. You meet the dealers. I'd just do it wherever, in my house, at my friends' houses," Kylee said.

Officially, police in St. George told us they are not aware of a widespread problem among middle school children, but they admit drug dealers from the Las Vegas area are doing business in St. George.

The children themselves say it should be a wakeup call for parents who need to know these harder drugs are out there, in schools and in just about every neighborhood.

E-mail: corton@ksl.com

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