MIAMI (CBSMiami) – There is a new epidemic of people who have been addicted to opium pills switching over to another dangerous drug which has gotten easier and cheaper to acquire.
"Florida is on the peak of an outbreak of a new heroin epidemic," said Jim Hall, director of the Center for the Study and Prevention of Substance Abuse at Nova South Eastern University.
Those switching from opiates to heroin tend to be in the white middle to upper class nationwide. Florida's statistics represent that same population group, according to Hall.
Hall completed a first of its kind study of heroin use in Florida. Once considered an urban street drug, since the pill mill crackdown beginning in 2011, it's now cutting across very different demographics.
"Andrew," 21, said that he never thought that he would do heroin.
"I first turned to heroin because of the pill addiction that I had, it was tough to maintain the pill addiction," said Andrew.
Andrew, a recovering addict now living at the Acceptance House in Miami, was living just outside Boston when his friends drove back and forth to Florida to score opiate pills from doctors. He became addicted within months.
Maurren Barrett's youngest son Drew was on the same receiving line.
"He was able to receive one thousand, four hundred and fifty five pills, all in their highest dosages, in less than 57 days from one doctor in Miami," said Barrett. "His license was revoked."
As pressure mounted to shut down the pill mills, addictions swelled and prices for the pills on the street skyrocketed.
"Once it became too expensive, I moved to heroin. It's cheaper and more potent," said Andrew.
Another young resident of Acceptance House, "Tod," shared his story with CBS4's Michele Gillen. He told her the remembered vividly what it was like the first time he tried heroin.
"I was scared. I was really scared, 'You are really doing this now,' I thought to myself," said Tod.
He was 17 when he got addicted to opiate pills and when he could no longer afford them, he began to snort heroin.
"My guilt was gone. I loved it. From the first time I did it, I loved it," said Tod who now describes the drug as "pure evil."
"The nail in the coffin literally is a significant increase in heroin related deaths statewide with a third of those occurring in Miami-Dade County," said Hall.
Is heroin more available given the government crack down on pill mills?
"Absolutely." said Andrew. "Heroin is more easy to come across in Miami. I go up the street in 15 minutes."
Andrew and Tod said that they were grateful to be among the lucky ones. There were in treatment and hoped to dissuade others from getting hooked.
"If you end up doing prescription pills and get addicted, you are going to end up doing heroin," said Tod.
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