"Does this look like a heroin addict? Does this look like a kid that doesn't have a future? This kid had a future, and that drug destroyed his future," Ed Balzer.
The grief of Ed and Cindy Balzer of Mastic Beach, is as fresh today as it was on October 29th, the day their 22-year-old son Brian, one of 4 children, died of a heroin overdose.
Cindy: "He's the All-American kid, the athlete. The image that you have of heroin is the junkie on the back street. It's not. It's middle-class America now."
Eyewitness News Reporter Sarah Wallace: "So in essence, your son is the new face of heroin."
Cindy: "Yes, he is."
Linda Diorio of Farmingdale lost her oldest son, 19-year-old Eric to a heroin overdose the year before the Balzer's lost Brian. The descent into heroin hell for both of them virtually identical.
Wallace: "And the idea that he was a heroin addict?"
Linda: "It was surreal. Even after I knew I would look at him and say this can't be true, this must be a dream."
Wallace: "Not your kid?"
Linda: "Not my kid. Absolutely not my kid. It was my kid."
Their heroin addictions started, as so many do, with prescription pills so available in any home medicine cabinet with opiates like OxyContin, vicodin and percocet. The boys started buying them illegally on the street, but law enforcement started to crackdown on that.The street market dried up and as a result, prices skyrocketed to $30 for a single pill like OxyContin.
Caroline Sullivan is the managing director of Suffolk County's Daytop.
"Why heroin? It's cheap, it's available, there's a dark side to it. It's a status symbol at this point," Caroline Sullivan.
Heroin is now so pure it doesn't have to be injected it, can be snorted and smoked. Eric and Brian ended up mainlining for the more intense high.
"We know he tried to stop. I just think it was just so much bigger than him.Once he got that urge, it was almost uncontrollable for him," Ed Balzer. "It was bigger than him and he didn't know how to get out of it. He would cry, he would go, I don't want to be like this."
Linda: "He stole, he took jewelry."
Wallace: "It wasn't the kid you knew?"
Linda: "Not the kid I knew."
Wallace: "Do you think it's hard for parents to admit their child is a heroin addict?"
"Parents need to know what the drugs look like and what to look out for, signs and symptoms of use," Caroline Sullivan.
And tricks young addicts commonly use to hide their habit. Iced tea or soda cans, potato chip cans. Nassau County DA Investigator Theresa Corrigan says watch out if any items are left for a long time in your kids room.
"False bottom or false top," said Corrigan. "Parents need to know that their children will hide anything that they don't want them to see in plain sight."
"I think it takes a lot of courage for myself and other families to talk about what we went thru but if it opens up other people's eyes to the fact that this problem exist it can only help," Linda Diorio.
"There's a big part of us that's gone and the only way we could deal with that is to help other people, " said Ed Balzer.
Nassau County 24 Hour Hotline- 516-481-4000 Suffolk County Response Hotline- 516-751-7500
Nationwide 24-Hour hotline-1800-662-HELP
Teenage prescription drug info-
What to do if you suspect your teen is using drugs
Treatment Facility Locator(Nationwide)
Teen information about opiates
TIPS FOR PARENTS
If you have a tip about this or any other issue you'd like investigated, please give our tipline a call at 877-TIP-NEWS. You may also e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow Jim Hoffer on Twitter at twitter.com/nycinvestigates