Nightly News   |  April 08, 2014

Mom Breaks the Law to Obtain Narcan for Heroin-Addicted Sons

Two brothers drawn to heroin’s ‘warmth’ and ‘calming’ are fighting off addiction, and their mother is desperate to save their lives.

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

>>> more now in our series this week on the heroin epidemic in this country. tonight a closer look at how to reverse an overdose using a drug that can bring people back from the dead. it's known by the brands name narcan . first aid squads carry it. it's saved thousands of americans. while the fda just last week approved a new form available by prescription this summer right now it remains illegal for anyone outside of the medical profession leaving some families of addicts to take extreme measures. here again is our national correspondent kate snow .

>> reporter: outside st. louis this mom is so desperate to protect her family she's willing to break the law. technically this is illegal for you to have.

>> yes.

>> reporter: denise keeps those vials. filled with narcan on her dresser. injected into a muscle it can reverse an overdose.

>> if they are laying on the floor dead i am going to save their life.

>> reporter: they are her sons ben and ryan both living with her, both heroin addicts sleeping in the rooms they grew up in. denise sent them to rehab but relapsed. ben is in treatment because he's young enough to be covered by his dad's insurance. he's been clean for two months. but ryan can't afford treatment and is still struggling.

>> for some of us we have no idea what the attraction is. what does it feel like.

>> like a warmth. like everything is all right. you don't think about anything. it's calming.

>> reporter: it's so easy to get addicted and so easy to overdose. that's what scares denise .

>> ryan said he lost five friends. you probably knew their moms.

>> i can't even drive by their houses. because i know my kid could be next.

>> reporter: they've had close calls before. a couple of years ago denise had to take ryan to the hospital after he overdosed.

>> they gave him a shot of narcan . i've never seen anything like it in my life. she was pushing it in his i.v. and he was coming out of it. before she even finished.

>> reporter: that's what led her to chad her source for narcan . a recovering addict himself he gives it out for free to anyone who asks. critics say that gives users like ryan a false sense of security. some people's argument is if you have more narcan around heroin addicts will use more. because they will know they have like a safety net .

>> that's ridiculous. really is that what people think? wow. you use if you want to use. i don't think i got narcan in the house. i'll use.

>> reporter: a few hours after our interview with ryan , mom and sons meet up at chad's apartment. ryan said he's been drinking with friends but as they watch chad explain how to use narcan it becomes clear he's high.

>> i didn't use heroin.

>> just drinking?

>> yeah. i took a xanax too.

>> reporter: denise and chad don't believe him. they think he's on heroin.

>> are you more worried about him than you were this morning?

>> yes. yes.

>> reporter: denise never thought she would raise two heroin addicts or break the law to save them. but she says she has no choice.

>> your kids are everything. my goal every day is to keep them alive. it's so hard.

>> reporter: her story is so painful and in many ways it's representative of the barriers families face when it comes to insurance coverage and treatment. we have more on that angle on our website. we had so much response using the #heroininamerica and i'll continue the conversation.