Special Report: The Truth About Heroin and South Texas - KiiiTV.com South Texas, Corpus Christi, Coastal Bend

Special Report: The Truth About Heroin and South Texas

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It's a sad fact, but the abuse of heroin is on the rise all over the country.

The recent death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman brought the rising use of heroin to the forefront nationally, but 3News has been hearing of its rise in South Texas for quite some time.

Hospitals have been seeing a spike in the number of addicts ending up in emergency rooms, and local police have also noticed an increase in overdoses.

"A definite spike in heroin overdoses," said Dr. Andy Ruscell, and emergency management resident of Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital.

"There has been an uptick or an increase in the number of heroin overdoses we are seeing in the community," said Captain David Cook of the Corpus Christi Police Department.

Even the Palmer Drug Abuse Program, a local organization dedicated to getting people off drugs, has seen the spike.

"Right now, we currently have a lot of people that have been calling us that are on heroin," PDAP's Keri McMillan said.

It's a deadly trend, but why the recent increase?

"However, there is no actual determination why that is occurring," Cook said.

Captain Cook with the CCPD's narcotics division said some people get off heroin for a while and then get back on, and while they try to use the same amount they previously did, it can prove deadly.

Another deadly mistake -- in an attempt to keep the same high, some heroin users take in a little more everyday, many not realizing the strength of the drug they're ingesting.

Heroin can be different every time.

"Anytime you put something in your veins, anytime you shoot up or use those drugs, you are taking the chance of losing your life, because you just don't know what you are getting," Cook said. "Without any quality control in the product they are getting, they face a potential of overdosing every time they shoot it into their veins."

If you believe this drug is affecting only the down and out on the streets, you would be wrong. Heroin is claiming the lives of people from all walks of life, regardless of age, race or socioeconomic status.

"A lot of them are not breathing very well when we give them the medicine," said Dr. Ruscell said. "They wake up pretty quickly. They feel pretty miserable."

For instance, PDAP's Keri McMillan said she started using drugs when she was 13 years old, starting with prescription drugs, then marijuana and alcohol.

"One day someone told me that they knew someone that dealt heroin, and I wanted to try it because I was already familiar with the feeling that pills would do to you, and I knew that that was stronger," McMillan said.

After shooting up heroin for the very first time, McMillan was immediately hooked.

"It took me downhill very fast," McMillan said.

She was addicted, using heroin up to 20 times a day.

"I would do anything to get money for that drug," McMillan said. "I didn't care about anything else than waking up and getting high."

She said she couldn't keep a job. She isolated herself from family, and soon became homeless.

"The hell I put my body through is crazy," she said.

Miraculously, McMillan never landed in the hospital for an overdose, but she did come extremely close. She became so physically sick that she had no strength. That's when she hit rock bottom.

"I couldn't function and keep up with the lifestyle of being homeless, so I turned to a rehab program in town," McMillan said.

That program was PDAP. McMillan went straight to a detoxification program, and then a 30-day rehabilitation program. Now, she has been clean for almost two years.

"I have to work on it everyday," McMillan said. "It's not easy."

McMillan works as a grant writer for PDAP. She also helps people experiencing the heroin curse -- the same thing she went through.

"I know now that I have purpose," she said. "I have gone through all the things that I have gone through to help another human being."

As for the CCPD, they continue to look for dealers in hopes of putting them out of business and behind bars.

"Other than somebody telling me where the source of supply is, there's not a whole lot I can do but continue to allow my investigators to make cases," Captain Cook said. "And eventually, we will arrest the individual who is putting out the heroin."

If you or anyone you know needs help with heroin or any other drug problem, you can contact the Palmer Drug Abuse Program at 361-887-8900.