Indianapolis faces heroin epidemic
Heroin is one of the most highly addictive drugs and also one of the most deadly. Indianapolis closes 2013 with at least 95 heroin-related deaths.
On the streets of Indianapolis, medics are on the front lines. They're encountering an increasing number of heroin users, who often overdose.
"It's definitely become a problem in the city," explained emergency medical technician Adrian Foster. The four-year veteran of Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services says this past year he's encountered people who have overdosed on heroin two or three times a week.
"I've even found them in a parking lot, right after the bought it shooting up with their young child in the passenger's seat," Foster said.
The drug has claimed at least 95 lives in Indianapolis in 2013 alone.
Smaller cities are also seeing a spike, including Columbus, Connersville and Greenwood. A study this year showed the number of young Hoosiers using heroin is twice the national average.
"I was at a point to where if I didn't have heroin, I couldn't function," explained Eric Gardner, a recovering addict. That was practically a lifetime ago.
"I truly believed that at 23 years old, I'm going to have to put a needle in my arm for the rest of my life or until I overdose; somebody finds me dead, a drug dealer kills me, I rob the wrong person," said Gardner, who eight years later is sober and works at Wheeler Mission's men's residential center.
"I would say nine out of then of these young men are coming to us because of opiate-heroin abuse," he explained.
One main reason: prescription drugs are harder to come by. And heroin is relatively cheap at $10 to $20 per hit. But it's so strong, and so unpredictable, it can easily cause cardiac arrest and death.
"A lot of people think of it as a recreational drug but there's not recreational aspect about it," said Foster, the EMT.
Eric now runs the same program at Wheeler Mission that saved him. He's married. He's become a minister. And now has a personal mission of turning lives around before it's too late.
The Department of Public Safety is working with IMPD and IEMS to develop a 2014 plan to confront the heroin problem in Indianapolis. Officials say, the details of that plan will be announced in a few weeks.