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A Family Heroin Addiction - Show Recap

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Original Air Date:

Monday, September 29, 2008

Lisa Ling Investigates - Heroin Epidemic in Middle America:

Lisa Ling did an investigation for both Nightline and the Oprah Show where she uncovered a heroin addiction epidemic in middle America. Lisa traveled to Richland County, Ohio where she was first shown speaking to local law enforcement. The police department described how the economy in the area is suffering and there is little to do in the community, so youth turn to heroin because it is easy to get and inexpensive, which leads to addiction and trouble with the law. Stories were shown of people explaining how they started with pain pills and moved to heroin because of the cost, or just started with friends.

Lisa took 3 trips to the area this past summer and was amazed at how the people suffering with addiction varied with age and economic background - heroin does not discriminate. By talking with local law enforcement, Lisa found how overworked the department is trying to keep up with the problem, but also sympathetic, understanding what is going on in the community. Many of the people with addiction want to get help, but there isn't a treatment facility in the area to reach out to for assistance with detox and rehab.

Lisa Ling Investigates - The Hawk Family:

Lisa met the Hawk family in Ohio, a family of 5 where both parents and teenage sons are addicted to heroin, the only one in the family not using is the baby who is 13 months old. Darla and Mike travel over an hour each way to Columbus for their drug run, taking their baby along for the ride, every day.

The couple have been addicted for the last 4 years but started when Mike was injured and prescribed pain pills. They switched to heroin because it was easier to get and was much cheaper, however, their lives are now consumed by drugs and they say they are living a nightmare.

The family wants to stop and get back to their old life. They used to live comfortably in the family home and Mike made up to 6 figures each year - the family now lives in a homeless shelter and gets by with shoplifting or selling their possessions, which are now all gone. Darla and Mike's sons are 16 and 18 and somewhat blame their parents for their using, because the life is all they know. The family tries to make the best of their situation, only using enough heroin to keep from starting to detox, not to get high.

Dr. Karim with the Hawk Family:

Dr. Karim, an addiction specialist from UCLA joined the family via satellite in Ohio where he discussed with them the need to stop now. Dr. Karim stressed to Mike and Darla that they have the responsibility of being parents and need to make getting help a priority. Oprah questioned why more people aren't getting help in the area and Dr. Karim stressed that it costs money to get help - Oprah then pointed out that addicts are finding a way to get money for heroin even when they don't have a home, why can't they find money to get treatment?

Since many addicts turn to small side jobs, scrapping, shoplifting or even prostitution, the lump of money needed to pay for treatment is not available, especially adding the travel to get to a facility that is out of the area. Oprah revealed to the Hawk family an offer to them from 4 separate treatment facilities across the country. The deal was for each family member to call themselves within 24 hours to agree to be treated with the center paying for services and travel. If accepted, Darla would be able to take her son to treatment with her. Oprah would announce whether they accepted the offer at another time.

Lisa Ling Investigates - A Pregnant Addict:

While still in Richland County, Lisa met Merry a 24 year old mother of 1 who is also addicted to heroin and 5 months pregnant. Merry started using drugs at 17 as she described living a double life - the first as she was raised to do and the second a life of using. Lisa described Merry's life as a cycle of using, even getting up in the middle of the night in need of more heroin and having difficulty finding veins. Merry's mother Patti appeared on the show and explained how she has had custody of Merry's first daughter and she fears how the drug will affect Merry's pregnancy.

Merry's boyfriend Brandon, who is the father of her daughter Riley, is also addicted to heroin and was arrested while Lisa was interviewing Merry. It was during this time that Lisa tried to convince Merry to seek out treatment at a place that detoxes pregnant women. In the middle of their discussion, Merry's high began to wear off and she left in search of more drugs, she did however seek treatment the following night and appeared on the show sober for 2 weeks. Oprah announced to Merry an offer to attend a live in program in New Jersey that would pay for her treatment and travel, and she accepted.

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