PORT JERVIS - The use of heroin has risen over the past few years in the Hudson Valley. In part one of News 12's special report "Hooked on Heroin," Tara Rosenblum speaks with parents who have lost children to the drug.
After Renee Hustins lost her son Benjamin to an overdose three months ago when he was 23, she met other parents who have lost children to heroin. The parents now all rely on each other for support.
The parents Rosenblum spoke to all say they never would have expected their children to become addicted to heroin. Some of them also shared their regret for not intervening sooner.
Jackie Vidal, whose son Rickie died of an overdose five years ago at age 18, says she only learned her son was doing drugs when he started stealing things around the house. Vidal says her son stole all of their TVs, along with jewelry that belonged to her and her four daughters.
"My own son did that, you never expect it," says Vidal. "This drug is evil."
Many of their children were initially addicted to prescription drugs, with one father saying his son's own psychiatrist was his dealer. They turned to heroin after prescription drugs became too expensive, as heroin typically costs $10 a deck.
Peter Lazier lost his son, Ryan, last October. Ryan Lazier became the sixth heroin-related casualty in two years in Port Jervis. Lazier says he sent his son to rehab 20 times, but he wasn't able to overcome his addiction. Lazier and the other parents say they're all speaking out to educate others.
"I want every parent in this county to know how widespread this is," says Kim Ricciardi, whose son James died at age 27 of a heroin overdose in 2012. "These are our children, they were brought up in good families, and they are using heroin."