Heroin Overdoses Up 800 Percent in Some Hospitals


WINCHESTER, Va. -  After being diagnosed with lupus when she was 16-years-old, Capria Turner was prescribed pain medication. After years of using them, she says she became addicted to the pain medication.

Turner’s case isn’t uncommon. Prescription drug abuse is skyrocketing across the county.

"Today the death rate from prescription drug abuse has surpassed the rate from car crashes in young adults,” said Jack Potter, the Medical Director of the Emergency Department at Winchester Medical Center.

At 22-years-old, Turner became pregnant with her fourth child, and her medication was revoked by doctors. It was this that led Turner to use the cheaper, more available, more potent choice: heroin.

"I tried to buy some medicines off the streets, and I was offered heroin,” Turner said, as she recalls her first time trying it. “That's when I started using heroin, when I was pregnant."

Turner says her baby wasn't born addicted to heroin, but doctors at Winchester Medical Center have seen a 300 percent rise in substance exposed infants.

“Some of the lost side effects are incessant crying, very tremulous, very tense, screaming as if they’re in agony, diarrhea, all the same symptoms that an adult would have going through withdrawal,” said Maria Delalla, Case Manager of the Women’s and Children’s Department at WMC.

“The growing heroin problem is definitely spilling over into the Emergency Department [at WMC]. We’re seeing increased numbers of all the complications of heroin use: overdose, drug withdrawal, infections. This is more than we've ever seen before," said Potter.

The heroin epidemic has gotten so bad, Valley Health hospitals report seeing a 500 to 800 percent increase in heroin overdoses since 2010.

“Organizations in our community are doing the best they can to help these individuals, but it's not enough. We need far greater follow up, and far greater communication," said Delalla.

Communication that hospitals, courts and law enforcement say would save lives.

Turner breaks down as she discusses her decision to continue to use heroin. “It just takes my problems away from me,” she said, in tears. “I mean, it causes a lot. But it's like when I take a shot of dope, everything is gone. All of like my mental issues, my childhood, I don't have to deal with [any] of it. I can just go to sleep, and don't have to deal with it."

This is just one part of the problem.

Heroin is also affecting law enforcement officials and courthouses across the four-state area.

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