Faces of Heroin: Clyde man nearly dies from what he thought was heroin

Faces of Heroin: Clyde man nearly dies from what he thought was heroin

CLYDE, OH (WTOL) - In the midst of a growing epidemic, the so-called "Faces of Heroin" are your neighbor, the teenager who is friends with your kids or even a family member.

The sheer magnitude of the opiate epidemic is bad enough. But making matters worse, is that the crisis keeps changing. It is getting more dangerous and deadly by the day.

Richie Webber was a popular guy at a recent gathering in downtown Clyde. But he really shouldn't have even been there.

One night in 2014, he shot up heroin at his home.

"I did about 3/10 of a gram. About that time I was doing about ½ gram shots, so it wasn't even as much as I would normally do," he said.

All of a sudden, his world changed.

"I remember it hitting me and I remember taking two steps and I just - bang - hit the floor. And I don't really remember much after that," he said.

Webber's own mother performed CPR, and paramedics gave him a shot of Narcan that saved his life.

A regular user at the time, he was stunned he overdosed. He believes it wasn't really heroin.

"It actually turned out that it was almost all fentanyl," Webber said.

Fentanyl, a synthetic opiate that is more dangerous and deadly than heroin, was likely mixed in the drugs he bought. But he had no idea at the time.

"They [drugs] don't come with labels," said Robert Forney, PH.D, the Chief Toxicologist for the Lucas County Coroner's office.

Dr. Forney believes Webber is lucky to have survived because fentanyl is 50 times more potent than heroin.

For the first half of 2016, his lab investigated 75 heroin-related deaths in Lucas County. Eight of them had heroin and fentanyl in their system. But 38, more than half, died from only fentanyl.

When the final numbers come in for the second half of last year, they're expected to more than double.

"This is the new wrinkle," Dr. Forney said of fentanyl passing heroin as the true crisis now. "This is the last 6 to 8 months. It has been moving towards this. And not just fentanyl but big fentanyl."

No heroin user should assume that's what they're getting from their dealer.

"You don't know what's in there," Dr. Forney said.

And Forney believes the dealers don't know it's in their product either. And if they do, they likely won't tell the buyer.

After his overdose, Webber said a detective told him that two people died from their overdoses that same night in Tiffin. He thinks it was from the same batch he overdosed on.

"Almost on a daily basis, I try to live every day like I shouldn't be here," Webber said. "You know what I mean … I've been given that second chance."

Two and a half years later, Richie is clean. In the process, he started the non-profit, Fight For Recovery. He signs addicts up for Medicaid so they can get into rehab. He also puts on sober events like the "open mic" night at Clyde's Main Street Cafe.

"It's amazing because at the very least, tonight, we know that all these people here are sober and no one is overdosing," said Webber at the event. "No one is dying tonight."

Dr. Forney wants everyone to know, even someone not currently using, of the danger that lurks out there with heroin and what's really in it.

"Don't come visit us," he said. "You know, get help. This stuff kills."

In the two and a half years he has been sober, Webber has lost five friends to overdoses. He says affordable access to treatment and detox is most important right now.

If you or a loved one have an addiction, you can contact Richie's group, Fight For Recovery, at (419) 603-8963. Or visit the non-profit's Facebook page.

Follow WTOL:  

Download our app here

Copyright 2017 WTOL. All rights reserved.