Drug counselors work to combat rising heroin use in Kern County

Deadly drug overdoses involving opioids continue to increase in the United States, and heroin has quickly become the drug of choice for many people.

Reports from the National Institute on Drug Abuse show heroin has similar effects to prescription drugs, like oxycodone and hydrocodone, which are highly addictive.

Eyewitness News cameras captured an intimate moment at the Action Family Counseling outpatient treatment facility in Bakersfield. A man named Zach, in his late 20s, confessed to his drug counselor, Cary Quashen, that he had relapsed three days before their meeting.

Zach has been struggling with addiction for nearly a decade. He said his addiction to opioids first developed after taking "Norcos" with his then girlfriend.

"I've been struggling with heroin for the past maybe three years,” Zach said. “Before that, it was more so Norcos for a couple years, and then before that it was marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy."

Drug counselors say people who become addicted to prescription opioids often turn to heroin after they can no longer get prescription refills, but the consequences of that can be deadly.

"How many friends of yours died?” Quashen asked.

“Just in the past few years, I can name four," answered Zach.

According to reports by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 91 Americans die every day from opioid overdose.

Quashen is working to keep Zach from becoming one of them.

"I want to live a clean life,” confessed Zach. “I want to be successful, and I want to make my family proud."

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, there is help:

Gate Team

  • (661)868-6453

Kern County Mental Health

  • Crisis line: 1-800-991-5272
  • 1-800-273-8255

Action Family counseling

  • (800) 367-8336
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