Hooked on heroin: Drug now No. 1 threat in Oregon - KPTV - FOX 12

Hooked on heroin: Drug now No. 1 threat in Oregon

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

A deadly drug has reached a critical level - law enforcement leaders now say heroin is the No. 1 drug threat in Oregon.

Doctors say the victims are young, addicted and desperate.

At a recent bust in Vancouver, undercover detectives were looking for dealers supplying the drug across the state border in Portland.

"In this case, we have some Mexican nationals who were involved in the distribution of the drug," Detective Matt Ferguson said.

Inside the apartment, the suspects sat hand-cuffed in their underwear as detectives uncovered five ounces of heroin. Heroin-related arrests have tripled since 2009, according to a report by law enforcement agency HYDTA.

The next day, detectives in Portland uncovered six pounds of heroin hidden in a car. That's enough dope to shoot up 14,000 times.

"This is a destination for drugs to come," Ferguson said. "There is a heavy user-base here."

Nationally, heroin use is up 80 percent since 2007. The drug is easy to find.

Just a few years ago, Ryan Opsahl was like many of the young users police find out on the street.

"On Aug. 31, 2010, that was the last day that I ever used and I was sitting in a jail cell for the eighth time that year," Opsahl said.

Growing up, Opsahl was a normal kid. He said a sports injury changed everything - he hurt his neck and got a prescription for Oxycodon.

"The three-month prescription really mapped out the next seven years of my addiction," Opsahl said.

Opsahl was part of a growing problem where gateway drugs are now in your medicine cabinet. In fact, half of all heroin addicts start with prescription pills, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

"Heroin was twice as potent and immensely less expensive," Opsahl said.

"At no time did I think I would be a heroin addict until I was a heroin addict."

On the street, it's sold as a powder or melted into tar to be injected.

Doctors at rehab centers like Astoria Pointe treat addicts in their teens. Dr. Mel Langston said you can buy a hit for less than the price of a cup of coffee.

"It's a plague. It's really an epidemic and it's destroying our kids," Langston said.

After that night in jail in 2010, Opsahl finally got sober. He now works at Astoria Pointe, every day he sees young men and women who share his story of addiction.

"This is an equal opportunity disease. This is an equal opportunity epidemic."

An epidemic fueled by demand for a cheap fix and a hefty supply from Mexico.

As their drug busts get bigger, detectives know their only finding a fraction of what's out on the street.

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