Nightly News   |  February 02, 2014

Heroin Hybrid Wreaks Havoc

Use of heroin is growing and has become a crisis in several  communities, leading to increased deaths.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> the death of philip seymour hoffman puts new focus on this growing heroin crisis in this country as many communities find themselves consumed by that problem. harry smith has more on that tonight.

>> reporter: for the last two weeks, emergency rooms around pittsburgh have been slammed with people overdosing on heroin. 22 people have died there in just the last two weeks. more than three dozen people have died from heroin overdoses in maryland since september. most of the deaths have come from an insidious heroin hybrid, mixed with fentanyl, a drug given to cancer patients for pain relief.

>> it's even more dangerous. we see so many overdoses. there's an old saying about heroin called chasing the drag and it basically means that when people first start, they get this immense intoxication from the heroin. they're always trying to get that again.

>> reporter: heroin use in america has nearly doubled since 2007 . this year, vermont's governor used his entire state of the union address to rally his state to fight the drug's explosive rise.

>> the time has come for us to stop quietly averting our eyes from the growing heroin addiction in our front yards while we fear and fight treatment facilities in our backyards.

>> reporter: in rural towns along the interstate or in chicago, the drug spread is epidemic.

>> people come from the suburbs. they'll come to the west side here. and it's easy access. you get it off the l or expressway. you buy your heroin and get right back on.

>> reporter: heroin is relatively cheap and highly addictive. many recovering addicts fail to stay clean.

>> it's a hard thing for me. i think that nobody everybody is this lucky. but there are -- there are just a few of us that got to the other side.

>> reporter: from the street they call it smack, scag or junk, but buyer beware , this stuff can kill you. harry smith , nbc news, new york.