Working in direct partnership with the city of Santa Clarita and the County of Los Angeles I formed the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station’s Juvenile Intervention Team, or “J‐Team,” in July 2010. Team members and community leaders worked together to outline a comprehensive strategy to address growing concerns regarding drug and heroin use and availability in the Santa Clarita Valley. Early studies indicated we were in fact seeing a substantial upward trend in drug use, which included alarming incidents of teenagers and young adults using the very powerful and addictive illicit drug heroin.
It became apparent through our research that many of those experimenting, using, or addicted to, these illegal substances did not understand the potential deadly consequences associated with putting these unknown substances into their bodies. Many were shocked to see how quickly gateway drug experimentation could escalate to serious drug addiction and the destruction of lives and families.
I have seen how dangerous and destructive heroin can be. I have seen it infiltrate even the most stable and well balanced households and communities, driving a destructive and powerful wedge between loved ones and destroying relationships, families, lives — and the values they stand for.
I have seen teenagers and young adults convulsing in overdose or withdrawal. And unfortunately, I have seen young lives cut short by heroin and other drugs right here in our community. In fact, six lives have been lost to drugs in 2011 alone. I have seen mothers crying and fathers hitting walls in complete rage and disbelief as their teenage son lay there, motionless and lifeless. Their young son that they had so much love and hope for a bright future. It is a helpless empty feeling for all of us in law enforcement when we witness a family destroyed by drugs. We are not immune Santa Clarita!
Yes, heroin kills! Use and addiction generally follows some predictable stages. The user takes their first dose of heroin for several different reasons. Some may already be addicted to opioids and morphine derivatives, such as norco, vicodin, lortab, Percocet, and oxycontin. They may have been prescribed these controlled substances legally initially followed by uncontrolled addiction. Some experiment with other gateway drugs eventually convincing themselves, being convinced by others, or simply seeking to fulfill an addictive tendencies associated with powerful substances, they progress to heroin. Unfortunately we find there are times gateway substances are obtained right from medicine cabinets in the home of a friend or relative. There are others who are curious and try heroin or other illicit drugs because someone else tells them lies like, “Try it once, you’ll like it and you won’t get addicted,” and, “if you just smoke it, heroin isn’t bad for you.”
Heroin is so addictive that an immediate withdrawal is experienced by the user even after trying the drug only one time. The user experiences severe withdrawal and the need to fill the gap with the same extremely harmful sensation. Without the gap being filled the heroin user experiences the physical torturous symptoms of withdrawal.
The withdrawal which will follow very soon after the use of heroin has been described by some users in the following ways:
- ”Coming off heroin is like having the flu times a million!”
- ”All I want to do is dying!”
- “My bones hurt from the inside and if I move I throw up. I’m like this for days.”
- “If I can’t get any (heroin), I’ll crash my car or get hurt so they will give me drugs at the hospital.”
- “I will do ANYTHING to get more (heroin)!”
Withdrawal symptoms are both mental and physical.
All in our community suffer when heroin takes its deadly grip on one of our youth. The addict WILL DO ANYTHING to supply their habit. These drug users can get involved with crimes including larceny, prostitution, robbery, or become heroin dealers themselves to support their habit as their life spirals out of control.
They may begin stealing from or hurting those they care about most with no regard for who they hurt. I have spoken to an individual who stole six thousand dollars of their own mother’s jewelry to pay for two hundred dollars of heroin. I have spoken to an individual who performed sexual acts for narcotics traffickers in order to supply their addiction. There are many more of these stories and they take place right here at home. We are all affected!
In direct response to the issue of heroin and illegal drug use, it became my primary focus to implement a program formed around four primary components including hard hitting enforcement, direct sustainable intervention, comprehensive relevant education and rehabilitation programs, and direct involvement of community members and leaders through our drug crime tip program.
The program has been very successful to date resulting in more than 200 crime tips, nearly 400 heroin and other illegal substance arrests, and the direct involvement of sheriff’s deputies working with community partners to place 72 drug addicted teenagers and young adults into counseling and rehabilitation programs in the past year.
We are now in the final proposal stages of the educational component of the program which will include a mobile drug awareness campaign designed to reach out to our school age youth with real stories directly connected to Santa Clarita and a clear demonstration of the devastating effects illegal drugs are having on our community right here at home. This is not someone else’s problem, it is all of ours and we must continue our unwavering commitment to address it at all levels.