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Washington towns fighting student heroin crisis

Some students tell KING 5 News that scoring heroin is easier than scoring alcohol or cigarettes.
/ Source: KING5

The communities of Stanwood and Camano Island are seeing a very troubling trend – a growing heroin problem among young people. And it turns out, the drug is easier for kids to get their hands on than cigarettes.

Forty-two students, between the ages of 15-17, are reportedly receiving treatment or are being admitted for the treatment of heroin addiction, according to Cammy Hart-Anderson with the Snohomish County Division of Chemical Dependency.

"It's scary," says Stanwood Police Sgt. Barry Ruchty. "You used to think marijuana was the gateway drug for young people, not anymore."

Ruchty says part of the reason for the increase in heroin use is because the drug is so cheap and accessible.

A block from Stanwood High School, Dylan Kelly and Tara Brandt took us to a place in Church Creek Park called The Arena. It's littered with drug paraphernalia.

"You'll go to the corner and they'll ask you to buy ecstasy or ask you to buy heroin and they'll ask you to buy a dub or whatever you want," said Brandt.

Kelly and Brandt say they aren't users or dealers, but they know people who are. One dealer agreed to speak to KING 5 News if he remained anonymous.

"Kids like to do different drugs," he said. "Since they smoke weed, they want to do different drugs so that's what they go for. They get high off of it and they like the high so they stick with it."

Hannah Muir knows.

"It's the greatest thing on this planet. There's nothing like it," said Muir, a recovering heroin addict who has been clean for 110 days. "It's easier than finding someone to buy you alcohol. It's easier than finding weed. It's easier than finding someone to buy you a pack of cigarettes."

Also, Oxycontin, a popular drug among addicts is becoming harder to obtain and harder to use. That's in part due to stricter guidelines by the FDA that make Oxycontin harder to crush, a popular way addicts use the drug to get a quick high.

The Stanwood-Camano School district held a town hall meeting Monday night as a way to let parents speak out about their encounters and raise awareness that Heroin is a growing problem. Counselors told parents the importance of talking to their kids about drugs.

A community coalition has been formed which includes law enforcement, school personnel, community leaders and parents.

Parenting classes, including classes for parents of teens, will be offered and an anti-drug curriculum is being added within the Stanwood schools.

A chemical dependency counselor will also soon begin offering treatment services in Lincoln Hill High School, Stanwood's alternative high school. Part of the admittance to the alternative school will be an alcohol/drug assessment.