Channel 11 investigation: Heroin addiction

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PITTSBURGH - They dispel the notion that heroin addiction is just a city problem.

“My family is a really good family. We live in a nice neighborhood. The last thing I think anybody would expect to come out of my parents' house would be a drug addict," the young man said

"I grew up going to church and everything and came from a good family," his friend echoed.

Brandon and Nick grew up in the suburbs of Westmoreland County and got hooked on heroin in junior high.

"It was easy to get away with it. You can go to the bathroom whenever and if you're good at it, you can hide it in the classroom in there,” Brandon said.

"It's across the board. It's equally bad and prevalent everywhere in our school districts today," said Tim Phillips of Westmoreland Community Action.

Phillips does most of the drug outreach in Westmoreland County schools.

He counsels kids like Brandon and Nick, whose lives quickly spiral out of control.

"I went to sniffing dope but I wasn't getting as high,” Nick said. “So then I went to shooting it and at that point, I was just doing it to function and there's really nowhere to go after that except jail or death."

In 2012, drug overdoses in Westmoreland County reached an all-time high. 

Since the start of 2013, there have been 22 overdoses, 10 from heroin.

Hempfield senior Jonathan Morelli OD’d  in February.

"I think it's time for us to begin taking some action,” said Phillips. “Rather than being reactive, we need to be proactive."

Phillips said the recent drug forums are a start, but he wants to see more targeted prevention in elementary schools, full-time drug counselors in the high schools, and training for teachers. 

He said young lives depend on it.

"This is a mistake if you make it's going to change the rest of your life."