TV Star Cory Monteith’s death from mixing heroin and alcohol shines a light on a growing epidemic in Washington.
The number of heroin users 18-29 has increased dramatically the last three years.
“He is unfortunately the typical face of heroin users,” said Caleb Banta-Green, a research scientist with University of Washington’s Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute.
There were 607 heroin related deaths in 2011, double the number from 2002.
Snohomish County has the highest death rate in Western Washington with 12.7 percent, followed by Grays Harbor County at 11.4 percent and Skagit County with 11 percent.
“I ended up on the streets panhandling, doing whatever I had to do to get money,” said Brian Krage, a recovering heroin addict.
At 13, Krage started abusing prescription pills, which led him to heroin.
“No one really knew,” he said.
Krage is among nearly 250 people that are turning to Victory Outreach Seattle this year. Half of the people the recovery house takes in are addicted to heroin.
“Inside was the worst I’ve ever been, I was broken,” said Krage.
Researchers say most heroin users are people you would never expect - people like actor Cory Monteith.
“It’s not the grungy look, it’s not the guy sitting on the corner begging for change,” said David, who helps run the recovery house.
According to Banta-Green, the drug is popular because it’s cheap and easy to get. Health experts have documented an alarming 80 percent increase in first-time use of heroin among teens since 2002.
Those that live outside big cities are especially at risk.
“They are much less likely to have treatment resources, syringe exchanges and are much less likely to have overdose prevention programs to they’re totally unprepared for it,” said Banta-Green.
Despite losing everything, Krage has faith.
“Jesus has me and I’m not going to go back,” he said.
Prescription pills are considered to be the gateway to heroin use. With three students in every high school classroom using them to get high each month, researchers fear the problem will only get worse.