Part 2 of a KGW Unit 8 Investigative Report. [ Part 1: Heroin top drug killer in Ore. ]
VANCOUVER -- A new killer is taking the lives of teens and young adults each year in Oregon and Washington. High school students and those in their early 20s are getting hooked on heroin.
On a recent a cold, pitch-black autumn night, two young kids sat in an old Subaru that they call home. They did not want their real names used and created pseudonyms.
In this world, they measure their lives in grams, not days.
"You never think it would get to this point, I don't think anyone ever would and it's all because of heroin," said 21-year-old Jason.
His 22-year-old companion, Nicole, reflected on her situation.
"I don't talk to family, I don't talk to friends,” she said. “He's all I have and in all reality, we're toxic for each other because we do use."
"I was fully addicted, doing it every day by the time I was 14," said Jason.
Nicole added, "You can find heroin quicker than you can find weed. It's easy."
Just a few years ago, Nicole was living at home, going to high school and had never touched a drug. Then, like thousands of kids in the metro area, she started using Oxycontin.
She said the highly addictive prescription pills were handed out like candy at parties.
"To snort a pill is more acceptable than to smoke heroin," she said.
A recent government crackdown made Oxy too expensive, sending young adults to use heroin. They say it gives them the same high for less money.
"It's everybody. It's everyone. It's not just homeless people. It's people you would look at and never expect," Jason said.
They would know. The two say they recently started selling the drug to support their habit.
"You know what you're doing. You watch your friends decline. You watch them lose babies because they couldn’t stop because they were high. It's disgusting. I don't think there's any other word for it. I give the ability to ruin people's lives every day for money, knowing it," Nicole said.
"It's not, 'Oh maybe I will go to jail, maybe I will die.’ Like, no, it's one or the other and it's going to happen."
The high may be euphoric, but it’s not enough to mask Nicole's raw reality.
"I keep wondering, am I going to come back? Like, even if I get clean, am I going to be me?"
The weight of despair was almost too heavy for her to bear.
"Whether or not the people that I sold to have beating hearts, they are slowly dying. I am slowly killing them. We are slowly killing them," she said.
By talking with KGW openly about her drug use and drug dealing, Nicole hopes people who think heroin abuse is 'someone else's problem' will think again.
The day after the interview, Nicole said she overdosed. Justin brought her back to life. The next day, they both vowed to quit. They said they've been clean for more than two weeks.
Nicole said parents first need to educate themselves to understand that heroin can be a problem for their kids. Then, they need to take the time to openly talk to their children, and act quickly if drug use is suspected at all.
Friends and families of people struggling with heroin addiction can find help through support groups, including Learn 2 Cope.
Helpful tips: Parenting for prevention