Addicted to Heroin: 'I'm Literally Just Rotting'


Also attractive to first-time users is the drug's relatively low price. Often, young people will make the jump to heroin after first becoming addicted to prescription opiates, such as Oxycontin. These pills can be pricey -- as high as $50 for one dose -- and the relatively low price tag on heroin -- as little as $10 per dose -- can push young users to try the drug they never would have used otherwise.

"This is a spiral into the abyss for a lot of these young people, who one day very innocently start looking through mom and dad's cabinet and take an Oxycontin pill," said Levy. "It's bad news where it could end up.

In Minneapolis, where Ashley goes on her daily trips, the purity of heroin is the highest of any city in the U.S., and the average price of the drug is among the lowest, according to the DEA. For young users in the area, this is a deadly combination.

'Five Minutes of My Time for That Much Money'

Heroin is famous for its euphoric high, a feeling that lasts 15 seconds, but comes to consume the life of an addict.

"You're just floating on a cloud," said Dylan, a friend of Ashley who's also a heroin user. "There's no care in the world. It's like a rush, just a rush of numbness."

This feeling comes at a price. It's quickly followed by heroin withdrawal -- an intense sickness that Ashley described as "10 times worse than the flu." Ashley said she no longer enjoys the high, but needs to come up with more than $100 per day to "stay well" and avoid the drug's all-consuming withdrawal.

Coming up with this money is a full-time job, and can force users to sink to unimaginable depths in order to feed their addiction. Ashley's friend, a former straight-A student who asked that her name not be used, has had to resort to prostitution in order to "stay well."

"I had no other way," the friend said, "I figured, whatever, five minutes of my time for that much money, it's not that important anymore. I don't care that much."

Because she charges as little as $20 for sex, she needs to sell herself to several men every day to keep herself from withdrawing.

"Lately it's been about like four, five, but I've had days when I've gotten like fifteen guys in a day," the friend said. "I don't feel like there's any lower I could go right now -- besides death."

The fate of Ashley's friend illustrates the Catch-22 of being a parent to a heroin addict.

"I've had a lot of friends say, 'Just kick her out.' Even the police have said that," said Ashley's mother, Cheri.

This can be an impossible decision to make, however, knowing how low a heroin addict will go to get a fix on the streets. Instead, Ashley's parents admit they give her cash and don't ask many questions. Ashley panhandles and steals extra money from her parents to make ends meet.

"It's a really sick feeling to know that's my parents' money," Ashley said, "It really sucks to know that that's how I repay them back."

'I Want to Get Sober'

Shortly after "20/20" met Ashley, she was offered an opportunity to attend the Young Adult Female Program, which is run by Caron Treatment Centers in Wernersville, Pa.

This is not an everyday opportunity. There are more than 23 million addicts in America that need treatment, but last year fewer than 1-in-10 were able to get help at a specialty substance abuse facility, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

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