Resurgence of Heroin Use in Kern County

Posted at 4:15 PM, Nov 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-07 21:29:28-05

According to data from Treatment Admission at Kern County Mental Health, they have seen an increasing amount of patients seeking treatment for heroin every year since 2009. In 2015, they admitted 456 for heroin use, compared to the 27 who sought treatment back in 2009.

"Heroin across the nation is trending up," said Kern County Mental Health Prevention Services Coordinator, Adrienne E. Buckle, M.P.A.

Also according to Buckle, one unique challenge to Kern County is its location and sparse population, which makes it easy for drugs to get here. Kern County has the only East-West freeway in California before Sacramento. 

"There's a lot of opportunity for people to bring drugs into our community and to pass through our community with drugs," Buckle added.

The Executive Director at the Mission at Kern County, Carlos Baldovinos, said that behind methenamie, heroin is the second most common drug patients seek help recovering from at The Mission.

"It's gotten very reasonable to buy for somebody to buy on the street," said Baldovinos. 

John Eaborn has been in the drug recovery program at the Mission at Kern County for nearly a year. He graduates on Friday. The 29-year-old has a long history of substance abuse. 

"I started smoking cigarettes at 9," said Eaborn.

He started drinking when he was 13-years-old. Buckle said addicts often start drinking at a young age 

"Almost 99 percent of them say "I started using alcohol when I was in middle school,"" said Buckle. "

By 15, Eaborn began smoking pot and living life on the streets. 

"I became a professional criminal," Eaborn said.

Within the next year, he finally met his father. Sadly, his father died of alcoholism that same year. At that point,he was running drugs for a biker. His father's death lead to Eaborn's first dose of heroin. 

"The guy I was working for slide over a syringe full of heroin sand said, this will stop it. This will stop that pain that you're feeling," said Eaborn.

For over a decade, his heroin addition controlled his life. He also lost multiple friends from heroin overdoses. 

Although Eaborn was introduced to heroin living on the streets, some become hooked after taking prescription painkiller Opioids. 

Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said the heroin user of today isn't the user of 20 years ago, and that his deputies are finding an increased use of it. 

"Oxycotin becomes very expensive and heroin is very cheap in comparison," said Sheriff Youngblood. 

Heroin is an Opioid and its use is becoming universal. Now, users are getting creative and finding other ways to get heroin in their bodies. 

"It used to be kind of more injectables, but now they tend to snort them and crush them," said Kern Medical Associate Director of Pharmacy, Dr. Jay Joson. 

Taking pain medications doesn't always to an addition, but it can. The government is now working with pharmacies and doctors to better detect those with drug-seeking behavior.

"It's our professional judgment to see that you're going out and getting medication in 3 different pharmacies from 3 different doctors, it's our duty to stop you from filling that medication," said Dr. Joson. 

Narcan, also known as Naloxone, is the reversal agent for narcotic overdoses. However, it doesn't always work.

Kern Medical Emergency Department Doctor, Dr. Geofferey Konye, said that paramedics often administer Narcan. He said he can easily identify a heroin user once they make it into the Emergency Department. 

"They are not responsible to stimuli. They're not really responding to anyone around them, and they have pinpoint pupils, " explained Dr. Konye. 

The recovery program at The Mission at Kern County is a year-long and is faith-based. 

"We want them to get the most out of this program so that they can change their lives around. That's ultimately what we want to do," said Baldovinos. 

Eaborn said he doesn't consider himself an addict anymore. Baldovinos hopes Eaborn will stay on stay on track and won't relapse like some have in the past. 

"To us...that's very heartbreaking," said Baldovinos.

He believes sky is the limit for Eaborn. 

After Friday's graduation, Eaborn will move into transitional housing and will become employed. 

Eaborn now considers himself a man of God and says his faith was key during his recovery.