Heroin use rising among O.C. youth, police say

Two men arrested over the weekend on suspicion of using heroin in an SUV parked on Lido Isle are just the latest sign of the narcotic's comeback among Orange County youths, authorities said Wednesday.

Two Lido Isle residents, ages 19 and 18, were arrested on suspicion of felony heroin possession and misdemeanor possession of heroin paraphernalia, respectively, according to police records.

Officers said that the pair were spotted at 3 p.m. Saturday off the Piazza Lido and Via Ithaca, using the drug in a grey GMC Yukon.

An officer went to the scene and found the men apparently under the opiate's influence, with syringes, a spoon and about a gram of heroin inside the car, said Newport Beach Police Sgt. Steve Burdette.

"That's actually a substantial amount of heroin," he said.

Newport Beach police said they found a spoon, syringes and a gram of heroin inside the suspects' car.

And such heroin-related arrests of young people in Newport Beach aren't as rare as they used to be.

"Lately, we've been seeing mostly kids getting into heroin," said Newport Beach narcotics Det. Elijah Hayward. "We're seeing it [used] across the spectrum."

So far this year, Newport Beach's narcotics unit has made 42 heroin-related arrests, mostly for sales. Police have also arrested 23 people for possessing or selling OxyContin, also known as oxycodone, a prescription opiate with qualities similar to heroin.

It's a trend of which parents throughout Orange County should be aware, police said.

"It is everywhere, but we're seeing it where we never saw it in South Orange County," said Lt. Adam Powell, commander of the Orange County Sheriff's Department Special Investigations Bureau. "Our investigative units have received calls. We have one in particular who received a call from the mother of an 18-year-old who had (overdosed). Two years ago we never heard of things like that."

Kids are smoking and injecting heroin. While this new wave of heroin users is usually in their late teens or early 20s, police in Newport Beach have talked to some who started using it as young as 13.

"When you're talking with that demographic, they started with prescription medications and saw the increased availability," Powell said.

People either got the prescription medication from their parents, or from friends who would get prescriptions after falsely complaining to their doctors about pain, Hayward said.

Hayward said he's talked to users who started with 80 milligram pills of OxyContin, which they could crack open and smoke and get the effects all at once, bypassing the gradual effects from ingesting it normally.

Drug makers changed the formula for the prescription medication enough to where kids couldn't smoke it and get the instant high, Hayward said. Pills of OxyContin that can be smoked now go for $120 instead of $30 to $40, as they used to, he said.

So opiate addicts search for a more available, cheaper high.

Enter Mexican black tar heroin, which is sold in balloons across the county line in Long Beach, police said.

A balloon, or single dose of heroin, can cost as little as $10.

"Heroin's pretty cheap right now," Hayward said.

"You used to never see heroin," Powell said. "It was in pocket areas."

Costa Mesa police department's Special Enforcement Detail has seen the drug become more prevalent, Lt. Bryan Glass said.

There are some symptoms parents can look for to see if their children are using heroin.

If they see balloons, syringes, or burned spoons or foil, they could be using, police said.

Someone under the influence of heroin would have constricted pupils, droopy eyelids or may just fall asleep.

Their skin would be pale, almost as if they're in a coma, according to police.

"Once you start, it's not really a drug you can do occasionally," Hayward said. "Once you become addicted to the drug, you have to do it every day to not get withdrawals."

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