Dr. Cali Estes - The Addiction Coach ®

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Prescription drug abuse leading to more heroin use — and deaths – LAS VEGAS

The mirror told Jeff Thompson, then 18 years old, all he needed to know: He saw stick-like arms and exhausted eyes, a young body on a downward spiral.

“I was so tired of getting high just so I could act normal,” said Thompson, now 23.

Fearful of a federal case against him, Thompson checked into rehab July 10, 2007, weighing only 110 pounds despite his 5-foot-11-inch frame. He’s been sober ever since.

“Unfortunately, most of my friends passed away or are in jail,” he said. “There’s not really an in-between.”

Total deaths in that category in Las Vegas have steadily declined since 2008, but deaths among the younger age bracket have increased, said Detective Burnett, who works undercover in Metro’s narcotics section. (For safety reasons, she asked for her first name to be omitted.)

In September, Burnett briefed Metro’s executive staff about the situation, which came to the forefront after officers in the northwest valley arrested burglary suspects who were addicted to heroin and stealing to cover the cost.

Vicodin or Lortab retail for $6 to $10 a pill on the streets, with OxyContin pills fetching as much as $30 per pill, Burnett said. In contrast, drug dealers sell black tar heroin for $10 per balloon. (Heroin dealers wrap the drug in tin foil and stuff it in multicolor balloons, Burnett said.)

“They deal their balloons all the way from Summerlin to Green Valley to Sunrise Mountain to the hearts of the poor areas,” she said. “It doesn’t matter. They will go everywhere.”

The economics of Thompson’s drug addiction ultimately led him to heroin, a drug he grew up considering among the worst. He had been spending more than $500 each week buying OxyContin pills and stealing along the way to fund his habit.

“It’s cheaper. It’s better. It’s easier to get,” he said. “It’s a no-brainer for a drug addict.”

“You will go to jail for possession of a controlled substance,” she said.

It’s a message Thompson — now a hip-hop artist who has performed at venues such as the House of Blues — said he wished he’d heard as a teen dabbling in drugs.

“I had no idea, no education you could get addicted to pills,” he said.

Thompson says he makes a conscious effort to not glorify drug use in his music. He also has an administrative job at Solutions Recovery, the treatment center he entered for his addiction, and has shared his story with high school students.

“You have to fall in love with being sober instead of being afraid of the opposite,” he said.

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