Heroin Sneaks Up On the Santa Clarita Valley
by Erica Silvera
In the Santa Clarita Valley, heroin use is not just something that is read about in books like a myth anymore â€” itâ€™s a reality and a nightmare. In fact, heroin in the SCV is increasing dramatically among teens and young adults.
Said Janine Prado, Santa Claritaâ€™s community service administrator, from August, 2010 through October of 2011 there were 108 heroin relatedÂ arrests in Santa Clarita. Is heroin still just a myth in a book?
Letâ€™s talk about facts. Nationwide, one out of 20 teens from grades 9-12 have abused heroin in their lifetime. The medical name for heroin is â€œDiamorphine,â€ and its street names include Smack, H, Skag, Junk, Black Tar, Hell Dust, and Dope.
Heroin is processed from the prescription drug morphine, and it is usually in the form of a white or brown powder or a tar-like substance.
Unlike the late 1800s when it first started appearing, heroin can now be smoked and snorted, not just injected.Â Therefore, the â€œheroin junkieâ€ stereotype with the blood spots and track marks on their arms is not commonly seen anymore.
Nowadays, a junkie can be a clean-cut, well-dressed, well-behaved individual.Â He or she can be the least expected person, like a neighbor, a friend, or a co-worker. There is not just one face of heroin any longer . . . there are hundreds.
What is it that makes users addicted to this drug? It could be the fact that it gives the user a â€œeuphoric feelingâ€ caused by the drug binding to the opiod receptors in the brain, blocking all pain and triggering oneâ€™s pleasure pathway system.
It could also be that it is now 70 percent pure, as opposed to the old 7 percent. Not only is it more addicting, but also, it creates a huge increase in the likeliness of an overdose, especially for first-time users. One direct result of a heroin overdose is the suppression of the respiratory system and difficulty in breathing.
Someone overdosing on heroin can be compared to a fish out of water, in that both of them are struggling to catch a single breath. While overdosing, the user only breathes two to four breaths per minute, which is a devastating decrease from the normal 16 breaths per minute.
Dr. Darrin Privett, an emergency medicine practitioner at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, has seen 413 cases of drug overdose in the past two years. Privett says that, one-quarter of the overdose victims were under the age of 24.â€ Since December of 2009, there have been 10 reported deaths due to heroin overdose in the SCV.
Heroin is not the only drug in Santa Clarita, and Santa Clarita is not the only place with a heroin issue. Heroin is just more prevalent in the Santa Clarita Valley than other drugs, such as crystal meth, ecstasy, cocaine, etc.Â Therefore, the City of Santa Clarita has decided to do something about it.Â For example, law enforcement is becoming more dedicated to decreasing drug trafficking and the crackdown on drug dealers.
Cary Quashen from ACTION Family Counseling gave some startling facts at the Heroin Kills Symposium back in late August. Cary informed the audience that since January of 2010, 453 residents have gone into drug treatment programs.
Even though Santa Clarita is often referred to as â€œAWESOMETOWN,â€ drugs such as heroin can still find a way in . . . and they already have. â€œAWESOMETOWNâ€ may not be so â€œawesomeâ€ anymore.
By Diana Malagon
One of the students at Canyon High School is changing her life and inspiring others through her determination. Her name is Xiomara Lara.
Last summer, Xiomara wrote to Dr. Drew Pinsky expressing her struggles and wishes regarding weight loss, and she was selected to be a part of the â€œDr. Drew Life Changersâ€ television show during the upcoming season. She heard about the show on twitter and decided to give it a try, because normally the programs usually require participants to be at least 18 years old.
The day that the cameras were on campus came as an unexpected surprise. Xiomara was in her foods class during second period when she noticed a hidden camera and couldnâ€™t hold back her emotion. Wanting to scream and cry, she was overcome with joy and all she could say was, â€œOh God!â€ as a camera crew made their way into the classroom to interview her.
Xiomara has said that she wants to begin living a healthy lifestyle and is hoping to inspire more teenagers than adults. To her, losing weight isnâ€™t an effort to be skinny, but to be well and healthy. As ofÂ this printing, she weighs 308 lbs, and as the show progresses her goal is to be at a target weight of 137 lbs, intending to lose 25 lbs a month over a period of a year and a half.
Like many, Xiomara has role models she looks up to, and both Jillian Michaels, a trainer from NBCâ€™s â€œThe Biggest Loser,â€ and grammy-winning singer Adele are people she considers inspirational. Xiomara has actually had the good fortune to meet Jillian Michaels on more than one occasion, the first being at a USC book signing and then again at the Staples Center. In fact, now they tweet each other.
Xiomara has always wanted to motivate others and now has an opportunity to demonstrate it on television.â€œTake it step by step. Hold onto the reason for what you are fighting for,â€ she says, and â€œdo it because YOU want to do it. It has to come from the heart.â€
We will be following Xiomaraâ€™s progress in the upcoming months, watching her inspiring journey unfold.