(WTOL) - If I asked you to describe a heroine addict, you'd probably paint a picture of a poor junkie standing on a city street corner.
Boy, is that picture changing. The scene is the suburbs and the addict: the all-American girl or boy. Their path to this lethal drug is one that may be in your medicine cabinet.
"T" hasn't taken a sober step for years. We're disguising his identity for this story at his request. The truth is his identity has been masked by a drug haze since he was in his early teens.
On this day, he's waiting to get a call from a detox facility. He's addicted to Oxycontin. Stoned as we speak, "T" says he wants to get sober again. He's relapsed from treatment several times before. "I just want to be happy ...peace... I'm done with the war. I'm done with it."
Intervention specialist Rick Marvin from Rusty's House has seen and heard it before. T's chances are for getting clean are "not good," he says. "He's going to die. This kid is going to die. You have to do something, and he's a good kid."
In fact, the teen support groups are packed at Rusty's House with "good kids." It's filled with teens from all area suburban schools, and the drug of choice is Oxycontin.
All have sobering words for parents. An Ottawa Hills student says, "I could find ways around anything... drug tests... even surprise drug tests. The only thing I couldn't get out of was a blood test."
Oxycontin is a powerful prescription pain-killer designed to treat pain from terminal cancer. It's an opiate seducing kids at an alarming rate. At $80 a pill, it hooks users instantly either by biting the pill or crushing it and snorting it.
It grows quickly into an addiction that requires hundreds of dollars to feed each day. If you try to stop, the withdrawal is agonizing and torturous.
And it's a hard high to detect.
Stephen is another teen trying to stay clean. At 16, he's coming out of his second relapse. His addiction started at 13 and traveled through the drug chain fast. "Weed, alcohol, Promethazine, Oxycontin, Percocet, adavan, shrooms, LSD, cocaine," he says.
His parents are taking every excruciating step with him.
Cracking his life wide open, they say, to save it. "I don't think twice about searching his room," says Steven's mom, "I don't think twice about getting on the house phone or the cell phone and seeing who he's called or who's called him. I don't think twice about getting on his MySpace and looking and reading his messages."
Oxycontin addiction hits every level of society, especially middle class and upper middle class kids. Suburban schools are easy prey for this epidemic because these kids either have money or easy access to steal it.
Switching to heroine
Here's the fatal turn for many. When the money for Oxycontin runs out, many addicts turn to shooting heroine. It's the same high for a lot less money -- $10 compared to thousands.
Marti Fisher's daughter fit the new profile of the oxy-drug addict. "Long blonde hair... she played tennis, soccer, softball, had lots of friends," she describes.
Once she was hooked, Marti says she lived her life to save her daughter. "As a parent you are absolutely in denial -- not my kid, not my child."
After years of trying and several tries at rehab, Marti's daughter is living in Florida... clean for the moment.
As for our first kid "T"... As we report this, his counselor says he has yet to make it to detox. If and when he ever does, the numbers show he has a 75 to 90 percent chance of relapsing. The reality is smaller if he's onto heroine by the time he steps in the doors at detox.
Schools and law enforcement
So what are schools and law enforcement doing to get a handle on this problem?
They've just announced a multi-jurisdictional task force to hold public hearings and make recommendations here in Lucas County to get the upper hand and attack the problem before it takes more kids.