Growing heroin epidemic tearing families apart

Posted: 4:28 PM EST Jan 20, 2014   Updated: 6:08 PM EST Jan 20, 2014

Heroin will steal your soul. It's the first thing addicts think about when they wake up, and it's the last thing they remember before they pass out.

Heroin is a demon of a drug with a growing demand that leads many people down a tragic path and ends many promising young lives. It's an alarming trend affecting the entire country, including Berks County.

"Heroin is probably one of the most potent drugs that I've encountered through my career of how it affects people," said Berks County Detective Pasquale Leporace.

Heroin is hijacking the lives of teenagers, young adults, middle-aged professionals and even the elderly. It's an equal opportunity destroyer that tears families apart.

"Unfortunately, here in Berks County, it's fairly easy to obtain heroin," said Leporace.

According to the Berks County coroner, 23 people died in 2013 as a result of heroin. The dangerous drug was also responsible for 30 percent of all drug arrests in the county last year, said detectives.

"I felt like I was going to die from it, I just felt like I was never going to be clean," said Shanielle Fox, whose nightmare began at age 18.   

Fox's parents led her to drugs. She said they were her biggest enabler, and soon she was numb to the world and didn't care about anything but her next fix.

"It just started on the weekends, then every other day and then it escalated to every day like I needed it to get out of bed," said Fox.

Most times, the problem starts in the medicine cabinet. Officials said addicts abuse prescription drugs and when they run out they turn to heroin because it's cheap. Their constant need for heroin can lead to a revolving door of crime.

"They break into vehicles, they commit property crimes, they commit thefts and frauds and anything to get that addiction," said Leporace.

According to detectives, the heroin here is coming from Philadelphia, New York City and New Jersey, and Berks County is a source for places like Lancaster, Lebanon and Schuylkill counties.

Fox's life has been ruined. She was in and out of jail and now rarely sees her three kids. She's on the path to recovery, and said her advice to a young person is walk away.

"Reach out and talk to somebody about it," said Fox.

On Tuesday night, 69 News will show what services are available for both addicts and their families.