Heroin spreads to suburban America, including Myrtle Beach

Sometimes the people in the "perfect" houses are the ones with the biggest problems.
Sometimes the people in the "perfect" houses are the ones with the biggest problems.

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF/ WXIX) A Raycom news investigation into heroin and opiate use in the Midwest and on the Grand Strand shows a dangerous trend. It's rising. And sometimes the people in the "perfect" houses are the ones with the biggest problems.

During our investigation, we met 26-year-old Adam Pendleton from the Cincinnati, Ohio, area. He tried heroin at the age of 16. It started off as just a "weekend thing," he says. But before he realized it, he was doing heroin five days a week, at least.

"You're telling yourself that you're just getting high or you're just having fun," justifies Pendleton.

Heroin landed Adam in prison twice and he now has a list of felonies on his record. But he's about to celebrate five years of sobriety in September, alongside his wife and little girls.

Our Raycom News colleagues in Cincinnati tell WMBF News heroin use is a rising problem there. As far as the use in South Carolina?

Heroin use itself is actually down since 2003. But that doesn't tell the whole story.

"It's still getting used on the Grand Strand," said Judith Grotenhuis, a drug abuse counselor at the Wilmington Treatment Center in Myrtle Beach. "But we see more prescription opiate use than heroin actually [being] used."

Opiates, she says, are drugs like Oxycontin and hydrocodone that take away pain and mimic the effects of heroin.

The state gave WMBF News data showing that in 2005 the Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services discovered that 5.8% of addicts who sought treatment in South Carolina were addicted primarily to opiates. That jumped to 8.2% last year - a 40% increase in just five years.

"I'd say, like, two-thirds of our patients are opiate users," said Grotenhuis. "So it is a big problem in the Myrtle Beach area."

The problem that many do not realize is that anyone can become addicted.

Back in the Cincinnati area, our Raycom colleagues met a mother of three named Sarah.

She suffered through her parents getting a divorce when she was young and her brother getting into a car crash. She turned to opiates to mask the pain.

For her, the decision to go clean was brutal on her body.

"It felt like I had a really bad flu," Sarah recalls.

Sarah couldn't take care of her children she was so sick.

She's not alone in her suffering inside the residential treatment center where she's recovering. The youngest patient in the program is 18. The oldest --- 63.

WMBF News also discovered a surprising number of people in South Carolina who are addicted to another fatal drug, cocaine. We'll be looking into that problem in the weeks ahead.

Copyright 2011 WMBF News. All rights reserved. WXIX contributed to this report.