Heroin on the rise in Missouri
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Heroin on the rise in Missouri

Date: December 1, 2011
By: Alex Goldman
State Capitol Bureau

A deadly form of heroin is hitting the state of Missouri hard, resulting in what officials say will be more than 300 heroin related deaths by the end of the year .
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Wrap: Taylor Green was your typical everyday teenager.

He loved hanging out with friends and family and playing video games.

However, Taylor also began experimenting with drugs before his fifteenth birthday.

On December 5, 2009, Taylor's mother, Marilyn Smashey, found her son lying on his bed with his eyes wide open, dead from a heroin overdose. He was 18.

Actuality:  SMASHEY.WAV
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Description: "I realized at that time that, you know, I'm looking into the face of death and it's my child. It's something that definitely changes you forever."

Smashey says she believes Taylor's drug interest began when he was prescribed adderall at age 12 for his ADHD.

By 14, Taylor experimented with marijuana and prescription drugs. It was at this time that one of his friends convinced him to go into St. Louis to buy heroin with him.

Taylor's friend would offer him free heroin in return for a ride to the city to get it. That heroin ultimately was what killed him.

Smashey says she noticed behavioral changes in Taylor leading up to the morning he was found dead.

Actuality:  SMASHEY1.WAV
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Description: "If he was off of it, he would become very erratic because he was, you know, craving it, and if he was on it, he was very calm."

The St. Louis Director of the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Dan Duncan, says not only is heroin becoming more popular in Missouri, but also is being offered in different forms.

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Description: "They had the drug processed in a different way, in a powder form. And it's much more potent than the old usual heroin, which we call black tar heroin, which had to be melted down, usually in a spoon and had to be injected."

Duncan says teens used to be afraid of heroin because of the use of needles, but now, teens snort the drug through their nose, creating an easier way to ingest the drug.

Actuality:  DUNCAN1.WAV
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Description: "This is not a recreational drug. This is a drug that can and sometimes does kill somebody the first time they use it."

In addition to the potency of the heroin, the availability also serves as a cause for concern. Duncan says heroin can be bought for as little as ten dollars for one twentieth of a gram.

Commander for the West County Precinct in St. Louis and former DEA task force specialist, Chuck Boschert, says the availability of the drug creates a new demographic of affluent drug users.

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Description: "20 years ago it was an inner city, ghetto kind of drug, and now there's more, there's a different kind of clientele using it now."

According to the Missouri Department of Mental Health Drug and Alcohol Division there were only about 50 heroin related deaths in Missouri in 2005. In 2010 there were more than 200 and the department expects more than 300 heroin related deaths this year in Missouri alone.

Boschert says this year has been the highest number of heroin related deaths he has ever seen.

Actuality:  BOSCHERT.WAV
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Description: "Just in St. Louis County alone, we've had 67, that was just the end of September."

According to Missouri State Highway Patrol Sergeant Paul Reinsch, Interstate 70 offers a drug route for heroin to be moved through Missouri.

Actuality:  REINSCH5.WAV
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Description: "I-70 definitely is a pipeline, obviously right through the middle of the country from east to west and drugs of all kinds are traveling up and down our highways everyday."


Duncan says the response to the heroin epidemic is a five step process beginning with increasing awareness among parents and children.  Town hall meetings across the state offer communities the opportunity to hear the realities about heroin.
Smashey plans to continue to share her son's story with Missouri as part of the awareness process.
Actuality:  SMASHEY2.WAV
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Description: "With heroin, either you're going to be addicted or you're going to be dead."

Reporting from Jefferson City, I'm Alex Goldman.