Feds say Detroit's heroin problem is spreading

Federal officials and other state leaders met in Detroit Wednesday to discuss the city's heroin problem and how fixing it here can have ramifications across the country.

- Federal officials say Detroit is gripped by a heroin epidemic and is just the starting point for a drug pipeline that feeds the Midwest. U.S. Attorneys from six states were in the Motor City on Wednesday to discuss what they call a Health Emergency. One of those was David Hickton from Pennsylvania's Western District.

"We need to do everything we can as fast as we can do it to deal with this crisis," Hickton said. "In 2009, drug poisoning passed traffic fatalities as the leading cause of death in this country."

PHOTOS: Detroit's heroin epidemic

They discussed ways to attack the heroin epidemic through education and law enforcement. They believe the problem is centralized in Michigan and is spreading into other states like Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.  U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade calls it a pipeline problem.

"Some have told us they feel safer in other states, that there are rival gangs in Detroit that will harm them for doing business here," McQuade said. 

They say the combination of over prescribing pills, and the easy transition from prescription pills to heroin, is contributing to the overwhelming problem.

Macomb's Gary Shafer lost his 29-year-old son just four months ago to heroin. He said Eric Shafer got started with prescription pills before moving on to the cheaper version: heroin.

"The stress was getting to him and my wife came home and found him outside of his room," Gary said.

Shafer says his son was doing well in culinary school and had been clean for years but agrees that opioid and heroin addiction have no boundaries in age, race, sex, economic status. He urges parents that it needs to be talked about and it needs to be done early. 

"You need to be aware of what's going on. Don't think of their drinking or that as a phaze of life, that's kind of what we thought and you can't think of it that way,"

If you know someone in need of help with heroin addiction, there is help available including Bryan's Hope. Click here for more help from the National Institute of Drug Abuse.

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