Heroin addiction's new face

WESTMINSTER -A drug with a familiar name is destroying the lives of people we don't usually associate with addiction.

Many of them don't live in the shadows, back alleys and drug houses.

They may live in your neighborhood, or work in your office.


They're today's heroin users.

Kurt Byrne knows the story well. His path started in a suburban town in Massachusetts.

"I grew up happy, healthy, played sports, went on family vacations, went to private school," Kurt said.

"I lived in a loving household," he said. "I knew that I was loved."

His descent into heroin addiction was textbook.

"I did pills for about seven years before I even considered doing heroin," Kurt said. "And then it got to the point where economically, heroin made more sense."

It was a tragic reality for his mother, Patricia.

"It was very hard, it's horrific" she said. "Everything comes down to fear. You're mad, you're this, you're that. You're just terrified because you have no control."

They were living in the same house. Addiction drove them apart.

"He would come through the door and I would just look at the TV and he would go out to have a cigarette and he would come back downstairs and I just wasn't speaking to him," Patricia said.

"My rock bottom was, I literally, didn't care anymore," Kurt said. "I accepted that I was a heroin addict and that I was probably going to die a heroin addict."

State data shows Kurt's prediction became reality for too many.

Records from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment show that in 2003, 21 people died as a result of heroin poisoning. In 2014, that number jumped to 151 deaths.

Patricia and Kurt said what's worse is that it's happening in secret.

"The problem is people are embarrassed, people aren't addressing it, and people are dying because they're not addressing it," Kurt said.

In June, Patricia started a blog in hopes of bringing new focus to this growing problem. Her website "Stop The Silence. Speak the truth," has drawn 1.3 million hits so far.

"If we can start talking about it, we can come together and start helping each other," Patricia said.

Kurt has been sober since February 2014. Recovery happens on a daily basis.

"I knew it was going to have to be something that I continued for the rest of my life," Kurt said.

Now, a mother and son who grew so distant, are working their way back to each other.

"The best part is, I got my family back," Kurt said. "Things that I felt were irreparable weren't and I got a whole new life today."

"It's been a long road, it's been a long road," Patricia said. "But he'll always be my baby boy."

Patricia said she has found help through the website The Addict's Mom: http://addictsmom.com/.

Here's a link to her website: http://bit.ly/1JToGSZ

Kurt is working as a client advocate at a treatment center, helping other addicts move forward. He recommends the following website for recovery groups:

Cocaine Anonymous of Colorado: http://cacolorado.org/

Narcotics Anonymous of Colorado:http://nacolorado.org/

Denver Area Central Committee of Alcoholics Anonymous:http://daccaa.org/

(© 2015 KUSA)


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