Local News

Experts: Children now more vulnerable than ever to heroin

Posted May 16, 2016 5:15 p.m. EDT
Updated May 17, 2016 9:07 a.m. EDT

— Doctors says children as young as 8 years old are being tricked into taking heroin in the form of candy, and statistics that 12 years old is now the average age for first exposure to heroin.

Even after one try, children can become hooked on the drug, doctors say.

Ralph Taylor, the father of Matt Taylor, a former straight-A student and high school football player-turned heroin addict, said talking about his son’s addiction is a difficult process.

“The boy was fine. Perfect in school, a straight-A student,” Ralph Taylor said. “I mean, it got bad; it got real bad. It brings violence, it really does.”

Ralph Taylor said the problem began at the end of high school, when his son had surgery.

“When the medication cut out, he couldn’t get his hands on the other medication,” he said. “Apparently, some of his so-called friends he was hanging out with got him hooked on heroin.”

Ten years later, Matt Taylor is still addicted.

“When they get on heroin, they become professionals, they become different people,” Ralph Taylor said. “I’ll tell you what they do … they become the child that you don’t know.”

Doctors say children are now more vulnerable than ever before to a heroin addiction.

“Twelve is what we think about as early contact with drugs and heroin specifically,” said Dr. Venkata Jonnalagadda, medical director of Eastpointe Managed Care Organization in Greenville. “But, what we’re learning is that, that’s the average number; we’re seeing 8 year olds.”

Jonnalagadda is working with her team at Eastpointe Managed Care Organization to combat the new trend, but she said she’s worried about the accessibility to children.

"They are making it cheaper; they are making it faster," Jonnalagadda said. "They are making it more pure so the addiction process happens more instantly."

Jonnalagadda recommends that parents move on from using the “say no to drugs” theory, and that parents must also discuss the possibility that kids may not know what they are taking at the time, stressing that they should not take anything they don’t see come out of a sealed bag.

If children begin to isolate themselves from old friends and family, that is a typical sign that something may be going on, Jonnalagadda said.