Stanwood battling widespread heroin addiction among teens

Stanwood battling widespread heroin addiction among teens »Play Video
Abigail Achison, a 17-year-old recovering heroin addict, is seen at the Stanwood-Camano School District town hall meeting on Monday, Oct. 18, 2010.
STANWOOD, Wash. -- Abigail Achison is just 17, but she already knows what it's like to be addicted to heroin.

"After the first time, I was completely hooked," said the high school dropout and recovering addict. "Some people start out slowly with other drugs. I just did heroin once, and I couldn't stop."

Achison isn't the only recovering teen addict, Snohomish County officials said. Nearly 50 Stanwood High School students are receiving treatment for heroin addiction.

"It's all of our problem. We all need to own it, and we all need to do something about it," said Dr. Lloy Schaaf, assistant superintendent of the Stanwood-Camano School District.

On Monday the district held a town hall meeting to raise awareness by educating students and letting parents voice their concerns.

"To walk into your son's room and, you know, see him and his friends with needles -- it's gut-wrenching. I don't even really know what to say," said parent Theresa Seim.

"It does scare me, and it makes me more committed to bring that prevention and safety information to our kids," said Debbie Kent, another parent.

Parents and civic leaders believe the increase in heroin use here is due, in large part, to the drug's affordable price and accessibility. Other drugs like Oxycontin, which is very popular among young addicts, have become harder to obtain as a result of stricter guidelines enforced by the Food and Drug Administration.

"We, as a police department, we need your help," said Sgt. Barry Ruchty. "We need the community's help. You're our eyes and ears. You see what's going on."

Law enforcement officials, school personnel and community leaders have joined forces to form a community coalition to battle the issue. But officials say it still starts with parents taking an active role in their children's lives.

"Relate to them. Talk to them. Listen to them," Ruchty said.