Drug Counselors: Santa Clarita Facing Heroin "Epidemic"

Drug treatment counselors report that heroin is now the drug of choice among youth in Santa Clarita, where there's been one overdose death per month.

By Michelle Valles
|  Thursday, Oct 11, 2012  |  Updated 11:55 PM PDT
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Santa Clarita drug counselors are reporting more heroin overdoses in 2012 than they've seen in the last three decades. On Wednesday, 22-year-old Carlie Coulter fatally overdosed on the drug. Her family joined other grieving loved ones on Thursday to speak out about the growing problem. Michelle Valles reports from Santa Clarita for the NBC4 News at 9 p.m. on Oct. 11, 2012.

Michelle Valles

Santa Clarita drug counselors are reporting more heroin overdoses in 2012 than they've seen in the last three decades. On Wednesday, 22-year-old Carlie Coulter fatally overdosed on the drug. Her family joined other grieving loved ones on Thursday to speak out about the growing problem. Michelle Valles reports from Santa Clarita for the NBC4 News at 9 p.m. on Oct. 11, 2012.

Photos and Videos

OC Teen Buried Amid Vows to Curb Heroin Use

Dave Macleod says his son, Tyler, started his senior year at Huntington Beach High School clean but within a few weeks, the 18 year old was using heroin again. Tyler moved out and soon after told his father he was ready to go to rehab. He died that night. On Wednesday, hundreds of people attended Tyler's funeral with a renewed purpose to eradicate drug use in the Orange County city where students say hard drugs are rampant. Jacob Rascon reports from Huntington Beach for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on Oct. 3, 2012.
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Just one day after Carlie Coulter died of a heroin overdose, her grieving mother used her tragedy as a way to warn others of a growing problem facing the city of Santa Clarita.

“It's such a wasted beautiful life,” said Sonja Coulter. “She was my best friend. My heart is so broken right now.”

Described as a lively, sun-kissed, California 22-year-old, Carlie overdosed at a friend’s house on Wednesday.

MORE: OC Teen Buried Amid Vows to Curb Heroin Use

On Thursday, her family joined two other mothers who have lost children to heroin, as well as drug treatment counselors to bring attention to what they are calling an epidemic of heroin use in Santa Clarita; the likes of which they haven’t seen in some 30 years.

“They just put something in their body, and I want people to hear this, that made them feel different and better than anything they have ever felt before in their life,” said Cary Quashen, of Action Family

Counseling. “How do you tell someone who is 14 or 16 that that’s bad? That’s what we’re fighting.”
According to drug counselors, heroin has become the drug of choice this year for Santa Clarita youth. They’re treating many teens that first became hooked on expensive opiates, like vicodin and oxycontin, and then moved on to heroin which gave them the same high but at a fraction of the cost.

Counselors report that Santa Clarita is experiencing one overdose a month and more young people are now smoking heroin and other opiates instead of injecting them.

“Of course there is a definite perception that if I’m not sticking a needle in my arm, it’s safer, it’s not going to hurt me, it’s not as addicting and I can’t die,” Quashen said. “That is crap. Smoking heroin… might as well shoot it.”

Next month an open symposium called “Tell It Like It Is” will be held in Santa Clarita to focus on prevention and outreach.

“It’s tough because she said, ‘I thought I could do it every once in a while recreationally,’” Carlie Coulter's brother told NBC4.

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