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Sitting in my backyard, reading about Auburn’s heroin problem, I am instantly thinking “What do you mean, Auburn has a heroin problem?” Auburn, the town that has a statue of Claude Chana, who represents the mining history of our city, or where retired World War II retired Air Force Captain Bud Anderson calls home . Auburn is also home to one of the oldest courthouses in the state, so how could our historical city have a heroin problem.
Not long ago, OxyContin flooded the opiate market which made Heroin seem as if it were a drug that was associated as a back alley street drug. OxyContin was prescribed by doctors, so it had to be legal to take, right. And since a doctor was prescribing it, the source was legit and the purity couldn’t be messed with like heroin was. OxyContin came from a pharmacy, and the exchanging of hands of the prescribed drug was between you and the pharmacist.
With heroin, the drug can change hands, and so can it’s forms many times over. So addicts who were addicted to opiates kept with the safer source, OxyContin.
OxyContin was so addictive when it was widely available, anyone using it was looking for new ways to increase their high because of tolerance had built up from ingesting the pill. Users began cutting the pill with a razorblade into a powder so they could snort it, or they smoked it on a piece of tinfoil to boost up the euphoric state the drug created. Back in 2010, the FDA put regulations on the Oxycodone painkiller, making it tamper resistant so that it could no longer be cut. They also cracked down on Doctors prescribing the drug, and it became a controlled substance.
With the cutoff of Oxycotin, drug users needed a replacement of the opiate, and turned to heroin. Does Auburn have a heroin drug subculture? Well according to some residents, Auburn does and the problem is real and getting the drug is easy if you know where to go. Heroin is a highly addictive drug processed from morphine, a substance extracted from the seed pod of certain varieties of poppy plants. It is typically sold as a white or brownish powder that is “cut” with common household products.
30-year-old Auburn resident, Rocky Zapata, started experimenting with marijuana and alcohol at the young age of 12. Zapata was put on probation and mandated by the court to attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Zapata spent the rest of his teenage years in and out of juvenile hall and group home, for his marijuana use. He also says that, until 17, he was firmly against heavier drugs, such as heroin and methamphetamine. The fact that methamphetamine leaves a person’s system much sooner than marijuana does, helped lead him to a much more dangerous addiction. Thinking that he could get away with it just once and temporarily find an escape from his life, Zapata says he had no idea that it would send him spiraling down into a life of addiction. He wants to emphasize to the wider community and other addicts who still suffer that he was at a point where many of his friends didn’t think there was hope for him.
Zapata, a co-founder of the Auburn Hip Hop Congress, had an epiphany through his experiences and mentors of his own, and made the choice to leave his addiction behind. Just celebrating his fifth year “clean from death”, the inspiring mentor has taken what he has learned from drug addiction, and turned it into life of service-to-others. Zapata’s advocacy and lived-experience reaches youth in the area who are seeking support to reach their goals of bettering their lives, sometime this means battling addiction. Auburn Hip Hop Congress provides unique and fun alternatives for youth and young adults through positive and artistic expression through different genre’s of medium, including writing, music, singing, and even photography. Each week, the group holds a writers workshop at the Auburn Library.
Another Auburn resident, Jason Smith, has seen addiction, including heroin on a personal level too. Smith has lost two close family members due to opiates. Smith, like Zapata, has seen an increase of heroin use in Auburn, especially in the young adult range of 18 to 25. Both have known multiple people who have died from heroin overdoses also. One such person, is Auburn resident Anthony Skeaton, who died at the Placer County Jail in July of 2013.
Skeaton’s mother Merlene Spinks, said that her life has changed since the loss of her son. She also said that she was unaware of Skeaton’s drug use.
Smith is a freelance writer who has produced a three part series in the Auburn Journal running Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. The focus is to bring attention to the fact that Auburn has a resurgence of heroin, and that it is more readably available than before.
Smith said that the cost of heroin is much cheaper than that of Oxycontin. A dub, or hit, which is approximately .2 grams costs about $20.
During Smiths six weeks interviews and research with addicts, a dealer, addiction specialist, law enforcement and professional personal, he has confirmed that Auburn has a fast growing heroin addiction problem with youth.
Smith is working in Auburn to open a dialog in the community to address this issue.