LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3) -- Heroin is a dark reality of life for so many here in Las Vegas.
So how do you break free from a drug that is so readily available?
Eric mason knows the growing power heroin holds over this community. His mug shots tell of his past life of drug abuse: the cycle of continuous use that nearly killed him. And Mason thinks that heroin use will only become more widespread in the valley.
“I think it’s just getting started,” Mason said. “I don’t think it’s at its height at all because there’s still an attraction to it and people that use it will tell you -- they’ll sometimes describe it as an orgasm, living a dream, like they fall in love for the very first time.”
Drug court is a familiar place for Mason -- a place where heroin addicts get a shot at a fresh start as they get clean some of their criminal records also wash away. But is there a place for them in society?
“That's one of the biggest challenges I have with my clients,” said Mason. “Once you say you’re an addict you’re looked down upon, period.”
Dominic A'Milio hasn't used heroin in almost two years, and he says he doesn’t want to go back to being an addict.
“I was so tired -- so beat over the lying, the stealing, the cheating going on every day,” A’milio said. “Literally you lose your life to the addiction. Not by dying, but by burning bridges, not being connected to friends, family, anyone.”
Now A’Milio is working his way through the drug court system with Mason at his side. By early next year his felonies should be down to misdemeanors, and that means college and a new life.
“I love the person I am now, A’Milio said. “I love fact I can walk into a room without having to duck my head. I can hold my head high.”
However, being a former heroin addict holds a social stigma -- a strange truth considering how strong the supply of heroin is coming into our valley every day.
Paul Rozario, the assistant Special Agent in charge with Nevada's Drug Enforcement Agency, says heroin deals happen in plain sight.
“They’re done in fast food restaurants. They’re done in parking lots. They’re done on the strip, done in malls,” Rozario said.”
Razario says 99 percent of the heroin is coming in to Las Vegas from Mexico, and Mexico is becoming a growing customer in Las Vegas. In 2010, the DEA seized 20 pounds of heroin. Three years later that, number has more than tripled. Rozario's teams have confiscated 74 pounds in 2013, and the year's not over yet!
“We win battles—but fact is the availability of drugs is still there,” Rozario said. “I believe as long as demand is there—the availability is going to be there.”
Rozario believes enforcement is only one piece to stopping heroin's hold.
“We’ve seen the war on drugs. We’re not going to be able to arrest our way out of the problem,” Rozario said.
Rozario thinks turn-around programs like drug court are key. That, and citizens not turning a blind eye to drug deals.
“[A] person potentially buying that drug in that parking lot potentially may be robbing your house tomorrow or the next day because he’s got a habit he needs to pay for,” Rozario said.
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.