LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- Heroin looks much of the same as it did during its heyday of the 1970s: just as insidious, but now, heinously popular.
It's creeping into every pocket of Las Vegas: all neighborhoods, every race, and all ages. The difference between someone who is using heroin and someone who is not is in their eyes.
Dominic D’Amilio, 21, knows heroin. He is coming up on two years of sobriety from the addictive drug.
“I’ve worked way too hard to lose what I have today – over a balloon, over dope -- because what I have now is what I’ve been throwing away the past two years before I got clean.
“If I throw it away again, who knows if I’ll ever get it back? Who knows if I’m going to wake up?”
Sandi Guinn, D’Amilio’s mother, watched heroin suck every bit of life out of her son. She said that on more than one occasion, she thought he might lose his life.
“We think we know our children; we know what we were like at their age,” she said. “We’re not up against the same things.”
She kicked him out twice, not knowing if he'd make it home.
“That is every parent’s worst fear. That’s every parent’s worst fear,” she said. “And you think it, but you’re so afraid to say it out loud like that’s going to make it more true. But every single parent thinks it.”
D’Amilio got to heroin the same way most kids who use in Las Vegas did -- starting with prescription pills.
He tried heroin for the first time at 17, changing his dreams of college to an obsession with getting more dope.
D’Amilio was a stud soccer player at Durango High School. As he was getting high, letters of interest from colleges started pouring in. Instead, his addiction won. He stopped playing and never received that scholarship.
Heroin today isn't so much about needles, although hardcore users will shoot up -- or mainline, as it's called. But more heroin users -- especially young adults -- smoke it.
Getting heroin is as easy as a text message to your heroin dealer. The tougher part is paying for the addiction. D’Amilio says at one time, he robbed an elderly woman of $ 3,000.
“It’s just like, wow, who knows,” he said. “That could have been her rent money, her money for food ... and I just stole it, and I didn’t care.”
D’Amilio’s age group – 18 to 25 years old -- is the most vulnerable for heroin addiction, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. And he says the craze is just getting started.
A new generation of addicts is being born from a pill habit that's grown too expensive. Unlike the prescriptions, the supply of heroin is there.
Anyone who is having problems with substance abuse is encouraged to contact Narcotics Anonymous at 1-888-495-3222 or visit their website at http://www.region51na.org/.You can also call the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit http://www.samhsa.gov. For more information on Heroin, check the National Institute of Drug Abuse website, http://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse.