The high cost of heroin addiction

"In the Shadow of Death: Jason's Journey" is a multi-part "CBS Evening News" series that follows Jason Amaral, a 30-year-old addict living in the Boston area, on his path to recovery.


We met Jason Amaral the day before he entered rehab. He was on a drug binge that lasted all day and into the night.

We watched as he shot up multiple times, nodded in and out, and snorted pills.

Later that night, his best friend Mike Duggan picked him up to take him to rehab. Duggan is a recovering addict who's been clean for seven years.

Jason walked through the doors of Recovery Centers of America (RCA) with multiple drugs in his system. He was visibly uncomfortable as he turned over the pills he had stashed in his backpack, but said he was determined to get clean.

"If I want a family, I'm gonna have to realize I cannot use heroin. Like, there's no functioning heroin addict," Jason said. "I'm gonna have to want a family and a job and a life more than I want to use heroin."

During four weeks at RCA, Jason was slowly weaned off opioids, which were replaced by physical activities and various forms of therapy.

The program at RCA usually costs $25,000, but his friend Mike Duggan partnered with the Arlington, Massachusetts Police Department to get him into RCA on scholarship.

But finding help isn't easy for many people -- people like Jason's brother Andrew, who is also a heroin addict.

While Jason was in rehab, we found Andrew dialing to get into any place, anywhere for detox ... with no luck.

In between calls, he continued to shoot up.

In Massachusetts, it takes an average of 19 days before an addict can actually start a rehab program. Sometimes, it can take up to 10 weeks.

So as the heroin epidemic intensifies across the country, police are dealing with more and more heroin users on the street. Even for those who choose detox, which lasts about a week, further treatment is almost always needed.

And that's another wait.

About 50,000 people go to detox each year in Massachusetts, but there are only 3,000 public beds for next-step treatment.

"So, that means that even if you want it and you will do anything possible to transition into the next step of your program, there's no guarantee there's gonna be a spot available for you," Duggan explained.

Which means some people go through detox and and are sent home.

That's what happened to Jason's brother, Andrew. He finally found a bed for a week of detox, but could not find a follow up facility. Back on the street, he was back on heroin.

Jason was distraught when he heard the news. "Can you guys stop the camera off for a second?" he asked us, through tears.

The U.S. government has approved $94 million in extra funding for addiction treatment across 45 states.

In our next segment, we'll update you on Jason's progress. He's out of rehab and in a new phase of his journey.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, resources are available. Visit one of the links below: