Target 2: The True Cost of Heroin - WBAY

Target 2: The True Cost of Heroin

Brown County -

Heroin use has reached a crisis level, according to law enforcement members who spoke to Target 2 Investigates.

They have no way of knowing exact numbers, but they estimate there are thousands of users in Northeast Wisconsin.

Target 2 discovered the AIDS Resource Center, which provides clean needles to prevent spread of disease, exchanged 2.5 million needles statewide last year, more than double the amount in 2010.  The needles were almost exclusively for heroin users.

We've focused a lot on what heroin does to addicts, and how it sucks in people with good jobs, families and friends. But Target 2 discovered who's paying the true cost for these addictions.

"I will always cross the Highway 172 bridge and my phone will ring at 5:10 on a Friday afternoon in my mind when I got that first phone call."

Valorie has never touched heroin, but it nearly destroyed her life.

This Brown County mother, who asked us not to use her real name for safety reasons, has a son who's a heroin addict.

He got hooked on opiates in high school, dropped out of college and tried heroin for the first time one January.  By June, he was a habitual user.

Like most parents, Valorie never dreamed her son could be hooked on heroin.

"We're a very common family," said Valorie. "We're just middle America. Until it strikes so close to home, heroin is on television."

But Valorie knew this was very real.

She saw the credit cards racked up with debt, the lying, the family heirlooms pawned for pennies of their worth.

Like many families, she saw everything spiraling out of control.

"My way of coping, as I realized it was unfolding or that something horrible was unfolding, is that I planned for his funeral."

After six months, Valorie made the most difficult decision a parent could, and turned her son in to police.

"I knew it was between life and death at that point," she said.

She found a Wilderness Rehab Center in the mountains of Utah.  Valorie took out a second mortgage for $35,000, and the minute her son was released from jail, she sent him away.

"I financially could not afford it in any way. But the price I would have had to put on it to bury him instead was something I couldn't face."

Valorie knows she's not the only parent facing these impossible choices.

She sits on Brown County's new Heroin Response Initiative, working with law enforcement, counselors and community leaders to combat heroin use, and show others that the drug doesn't just ruin the lives of addicts.

"It's a vicious seductress that takes the addict and the family and anybody who loves that person, right along with them."

Valorie's son is one of the success stories. His treatment worked, and he's now a counselor.

But the guilt, embarrassment, and fear for the entire family will never go away.

"He spent about seven months where he wouldn't leave the house. He wouldn't go to the mailbox, wouldn't shovel the driveway during daylight, because he was afraid of being seen," said Valorie.

Still, Valorie wants other families to see that they can come out on the other side.

"It's important for me to say to the community, 'Please don't give up.'"

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