Five heroin overdoses in five days in Madison

MADISON (WKOW) -- Madison police say there have been five heroin overdoses in the past five days.

Two happened Tuesday, one in the 1800 block of Hayes Road, and the second in the Woodman's parking lot on Milwaukee Street.

Police say that case involved a group of friends who took a road trip from Stoughton to Madison to buy heroin.

On Monday, police say heroin overdoses took place on Hamilton Street and likely on South First Street. Yet another occurred Friday on Horned Owl Court.

The City of Madison and Dane County have both allotted tens of thousands of dollars in their 2012 budgets to create an Opiates Task Force.

On Wednesday, 27 News asked those recovering from addiction themselves what they think is the answer to fighting a growing trend.

Damian Sundby, recovering from heroin addiction, says, "I don't think people really know how serious this is. It's an epidemic."

Rebecca Reese, also recovering from addiction, says, "It affects your whole family, your whole life... It ruins things, it ruins people."

Reese, age 22, and Sundby, age 38, are both in treatment centers in Madison for heroin addiction.

It's a drug the Department of Justice warned a year ago was on the rise.

Why? Heroin is addictive and cheap.

Users are replacing more expensive painkillers like Oxycontin and Vicodin with the drug.

Reese says she started with painkillers when she was 13. Now, she says, "You can't use them the same way you used to. They were so expensive anyways, it was like in your mind it was cheaper to switch to heroin."

Sundby says, "It's as readily available as walking into a store, and buying a six pack of beer."

Sundby says he hit a point when he knew he needed help in December of 2009, when police say his brother, Tyrone Adair, killed his two daughters and their mothers, then took his own life.

He says, "I really dove deep after that, trying to escape my feelings. I got to a point, I hit what an addict calls "rock bottom". They talk about pain, I'm in enough pain to motivate myself to want to make some changes."

Eventually, he got himself to Tellurian UCAN Inc, a recovery center in Madison. He's been in treatment for 42 days.

About 40 percent of people at Tellurian suffer from heroin addiction.

Reese says she got into legal issues because of her heroin usage, saying, "It's outta control. There's no way to control it. Once you do it, there's no going back." She adds, "At first, I was forced into sobriety, but then I got a taste of what it should be, how good it can be."

She's been working with Connections Counseling, a center that specializes in treating young adults with addictions.

They've expanded into a new building, mainly because of the growing number of opiate users. Counselors say they've seen at least 100 more patients coming in a year with opiate addiction.

Counselor Skye Tikkanen says, "Prevention is a really key piece in this, also more treatment. It's hard for people to access treatment right now, especially with the numbers of people who are addicted."

In 2009, Dane County saw about 77 heroin or opiate overdoses. In 2010, it was about 94. So far this year: 136.

Reese says, "If there's some place like this, a tight-knit community, where people are always talking... I wish it was more available to people who didn't have insurance."

Sundby says, "What I would say to someone is, if you feel like you're in a lot of pain right now, you feel like you can't do it, recovery's gonna be too much? You've already gone through the pain you're going to have to go through."

Tikkanen is also working to implement a Good Samaritan Law in Wisconsin. That means if someone witnesses an overdose and calls 911, they won't be charged with possession of drugs. She says its been shown to decrease overdose rates.


MADISON (WKOW) -- Heroin is a problem that is growing at a rapid rate in the city of Madison.

The latest overdose involves a group of friends who took a road-trip from Stoughton to Madison Tuesday to buy heroin.

Three men shot up in the Woodman's parking lot on the east side of Madison, when one man's lips started turning purple. The friends started CPR and called 911.

This is just one incident of a number of overdoses reported in the past few days.

Teresa Mackin is following up on this story, and will have more on 27 News at 5, 6 and 6:30.