BOSTON -- A lethal combination of rock bottom prices combined with a spike in the potency and availability of heroin on Massachusetts streets has led to a startling increase in the number of heroin-related deaths in recent years.
NewsCenter 5�s Bianca de la Garza reported Tuesday that the state�s heroin crisis has spread from inner cities to tranquil suburbs.
�It just makes you think you�re nothing,� said Maureen Coppinger, a recovering heroin addict. �It took everything from me."
"It�s ruined everything," said Sarrie Meggison, another addict now seeking treatment along with Coppinger at Project Cope in Lynn.
Addicts and drug enforcement officials share the same enemy � a surge in the strength and accessibility of heroin.
�It's actually our No. 1 priority,� said Special Agent Steven Derr of the federal Drug Enforcement Agency. �You can go out for $10 and get a bag of heroin. I don't think the future is particular bright."
The new mission, according to Derr, is to stop the flow of heroin from Colombia to New England streets. That�s where Coppinger and Meggison found heroin, and soon got hooked.
"I've gone to over 30-something detoxes," said Meggison.
Coppinger added, �The drug makes you think you�re worthless, you're better off dead, you�re better off without your family."
�The heroin we saw today is not the heroin we saw 20-25 years ago,� said Derr. �It�s much, much, much stronger. Even the first time they are using it, it�s too strong for them."
And that may explain, in part, the state�s recent sharp rise in opoid-related overdose deaths. In 1996, there were 178. A decade later, the number of fatal overdoses had more than tripled to 637 � killing more people than motor vehicle accidents.
"Don't assume it�s just the cities, don't blame the cities. It�s everywhere," said Salisbury Police Chief David L'Esperance.
For L'Esperance, who became chief three years ago, the fight against heroin is personal. His 20-year-old son, Christopher, died of an opoid overdose two years ago.
�He was a great kid until he got into that. Then it all changed,� he said. �There is no stereotype for this, that is what people have to understand."
It�s something recovering addicts know firsthand. Both said they are thankful to be alive, but heroin has left a permanent mark on them.
"It got to the point last year where I wanted to die,� said Coppinger. �You don't care if you live or die, it�s that bad I really truly want to die."
�I had the house, the family, a job," said Meggison. �This isn�t a joke,� said Coppinger. �For young kids going out and experimenting, really think before you do things."
Local and federal law enforcement told NewsCenter 5 they agree that rehab is critical for people battling heroin.
Copyright 2009 by TheBostonChannel.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.