Today's heroin junkies aren't the sad, sick criminals you envision with needle marks all over their bodies, shooting up in dark alleys.
They're your kid's best friend, your neighbor, even your very own son or daughter.
One young user told us, "I was doing it in class, in the back of class I'd hide and take a hit and no one would notice."
Another explained, "She did heroin for a month and she lost everything. She threw it all down the drain within a month. She destroyed her whole life."
A third said, "It changes your total perception of life and changes your total drive, kills it and just takes the meaning out of life."
These kids are now getting help. They're hiding their identities, but telling you their stories.
Their parents say they never in their wildest dreams thought this could happen to them.
One parent told us, "There were days where I thought if I got a phone call after 9, it was going to be from the police to identify his body."
A second said, "A lot of parents I've spoken to have been in denial saying that their children don't do drugs... wouldn't do drugs."
A third explained, "It's everywhere. It's saturating District 20, I know for sure."
Police and School District 20 administrators confirm drug dealers have found a niche in the north part of Colorado Springs. We're told dealers from Mexico are marketing black tar heroin to those who can afford it, and it's impacting everyone from jocks to the most studious.
One student explained, "It's not just the druggie crew, you know the druggie crowd, it's the jocks and you know, some nerdy people are doing it. It just became so available."
Jim Grayson, the assistant chief of security for D-20 learned, "It can range from athletes to cheerleaders to Honor Society members and it really doesn't know a boundary."
Grayson says they discovered heroin was a problem last October and immediately stepped up patrol as well as educational efforts.
These brothers asked their mother for help after realizing they were hooked. Their wake up call: getting caught stealing to support their habit and being threatened by a drug dealer for not paying up.
The older brother told us, "I gave him the money and he lifted up the center console and there was a gun in it and he said you screw up like this again, and it was implied what he would do."
The younger one explained, "We were stealing Ipods, stealing DVDs, stealing laptops, stealing stuff from our parents, stuff from our friends."
Parents say their children's' addictions have left them in financial ruin.
Treatment is expensive. Some programs cost upwards of $40,000.
In tears, one parent said, "I lost everything I had, but it's worth every penny, everything I gave up."
Another said, "Treatment centers are expensive, you know, but you throw everything you have into it because what else are you going to do."
One father said, "I'll be in debt for the rest of my life."
And even expensive treatment doesn't always work.
Dr. Judith Reynolds is one of only two addiction medicine specialists in El Paso County.
She says there are very few treatment options in Colorado Springs for young people and treatment is a lifelong commitment.
Dr. Reynold says, "I've had people say, well just quit...You know just tell them to quit. Well, you need help with that because of all kinds of physiological symptoms that are going to happen in the process of withdrawal."
Another struggle for young addicts, many drug treatment programs won't take minors. Sometimes their best bet is getting arrested so the legal system will cover treatment when they're locked up.
Dr. Reynolds adds, "It's frustrating for providers because we have no place to send people."
She believes high schools should be proactive and teach stress management classes to help young people learn skills to cope with stress.
Parents and kids both say: pay attention and learn the warning signs and symptoms.
One user says, "You'll have a real raspy voice, pinpoint pupils."
Another says, "Real drowsy, falling asleep, throwing up for no reason."
They go on to say, "Real lethargic, it's totally like a sedative, numbs your whole body... crazy mood swings."
One father explains, "There's no longer anything in their eyes, they're numb to the world."
A mother emphasizes, "Parents who think their kids are using, do get in there and fight for them!"
Parents I spoke with suggest getting your teens drug tested if you're suspicious. Test kits like one I purchased from Walgreens are available for less than $20.
They say the most important thing is to get help ASAP.
School District 20 conducts a drug survey among its middle and high school students every other year.
It shows drug use below the national average ... below 10 percent for 23,000 students.
The district says if students ask an adult for help for themselves or for someone else... they aren't punished. Their parents are called and counselors try to help them get treatment.
Part II of Hooked on Heroin focuses on the tactics dealers are using to lure students.
We asked Colorado Springs Police about their efforts to fight this growing problem.
Officers say any information given could compromise their current investigations.
To see Hooked on Heroin II click on the link below.
Colorado Treatment Services is a drug addiction treatment center specializing in treating opiod addiction. It offers counseling, mental health services and group therapy. All of its counselors are certified by the state as addiction counselors at the second or third level.
Dr. Judith Reynolds has been in the addiction field for more than 30 years. Colorado Treatment Services offers methadone and suboxone treatment.
Colorado Treatment Services:
2010 E. Bijou Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80909
Insight Services, PLLC says it will help parents navigate the difficult terrain of finding the right form of treatment for their child.
It offers an outpatient program for adolescents specifically
geared towards black tar heroin. Phone calls are free. A fee is charged for an assessment.
115 East Costilla Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80903
Parkview Medical Center in Pueblo offers an adolescent substance abuse program for those 18 and under. We're told some insurance companies will cover some costs if you have a "Substance Abuse Benefit." Parkview says it will work for those without insurance coverage.
Parkview Medical Center
56 Club Manor Drive
Pueblo, CO 81008
Urine Analysis ($17 - $20 charge) as well as outpatient counseling are available at:
Confidential Health Services
1011 North Weber Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80903
A Turning Point
5160 North Union Boulevard
Colorado Springs, CO 80918
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