"It's Devastating:" Heroin Summit Looks to Stop Epidemic
For the first time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a set of guidelines on prescription opoiods, urging doctors to avoid prescribing opioids for chronic pain.
It's the first such recommendation by the CDC, signaling another push in the fight to end prescription drug abuse.
In Milwaukee County, there were 255 drug-related deaths in 2015. West Allis is on pace for a 300% increase in opiate-related deaths this year, with seven already in the first two months. West Allis Paramedic Scott Heflin says those numbers are far too high.
"Early on in my career, heroin overdoses were so rare," he says. "I'd see one every six months, and I've seen it more and more. I can see two in a day."
Heflin was one of dozens who attended an event in West Allis Tuesday, called "Stairway to Heroin".
It featured stories from recovering addicts like Tyler Lybert.
"Ninety-percent of the heroin addicts I know started with pills, because the pills become too expensive, and so you switch to heroin."
He started using heroin at the age of 16.
"We teach our kids that it's okay to take pills, so they're not afraid of them," he says.
The summit also included community members who have been impacted by prescription drug abuse through their families. Joanne Luedke has been trying to help her daughter deal with a heroin addiction.
"It's not a drug that you just try," she says. "Once you try it, it takes you, and it owns you."
Organizers are hoping education can steer potential users away from prescription pills.
"It can impact any one of you," says Lybert. Nobody's immune from this, there's no silver lining to this."