A Local Epidemic: Heroin addiction in WAVE Country

A Local Epidemic: Heroin addiction in WAVE Country
Published: May. 17, 2016 at 1:53 PM EDT|Updated: May. 18, 2016 at 9:24 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - It is a drug epidemic unlike few in modern history. Heroin is ripping apart families and communities. And virtually no segment of WAVE Country is unaffected.

Tragic stories include mothers like Katie, who used heroin while pregnant with her daughter Isabella.

"It takes over your body," Katie said. "You are not yourself anymore. You're a soulless body."

Isabella still suffers from being born into addiction. And long-term health problems are possible.

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There are also tales of recovery, like Abby Houchens.

One of five children growing up together in Oldham County, she seemed like the all-American girl, playing for her church softball team. That was before heroin addiction nearly killed her.

"There were a lot of days that I wanted it to be the last shot," she said. "The last day. Because addiction takes you down such a path you don't see a way out."

But it is out on the streets that the heroin epidemic reaches from the shadows and into everyday life. From the rising number of thefts and robberies committed by addicts to pay for their addiction, to the dangers confronted by police tasked with bring people who have overdosed back from the dead, heroin appears to be everywhere.

Officer Heather Jaynes patrols Louisville's 3rd Division around Pleasure Ridge Park.

"I mean we found needles in toy boxes, in stuffed animals," Jaynes said. "It's just absurd."

Jaynes said she believes Jefferson County's new needle exchange program only makes the problem worse by giving users a fresh supply of needles to fuel their addiction.

Jaynes said drugs make up 70 to 80 percent of her runs. Often, she and other officers are called to the scene to administer narcan, now carried by every one of LMPD's 1,200 officers.

Narcan is the antidote for people who have overdosed on heroin or other opioids.

Police and EMS are using narcan at a record pace -- 2,136 times in the past two years in Louisville. That's almost three overdoses in the city every day.

And after seeing the same addicts overdose over and over, Jaynes often questions if she's making any difference at all.

"Like tonight," Jaynes said on a recent patrol. "Yeah I got a bunch of drugs off the street. But there's just that much, if not more, the next day."

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