NEW ROCHELLE - In the second part of News 12's special report "Hooked on Heroin," a recovering heroin addict from New Rochelle is sharing his story of how a Westchester treatment center saved his life.
Brian Barry, 23, says the Guidance Center saved his life. Barry started getting into marijuana and alcohol when he was 10 years old, but he turned to prescription pills a few years later. He was initially afraid of needles and wouldn't think of trying heroin, but by the time he was 17, he was addicted.
The former baseball player and A-student was eventually kicked out of high school in New Rochelle. Barry says he was committing robberies to feed his addiction and spent time in jail as a teenager for burglary before getting arrested three more times. After facing more time in prison when he failed a drug test in a halfway house, Barry knew he needed help. He turned to the Guidance Center in New Rochelle, where he says he's learned that he can be more than the mistakes he made in the past.
"I'm not going to throw it all away for a 10-minute high," says Barry. "I've given the drug so much already, I'm not giving it anything else."
Donald Johnson is the director of the Guidance Center in New Rochelle, Westchester's only free-standing methadone clinic. He says he sees 249 patients a day, a number that's skyrocketed recently. Officials say the high rate of heroin addiction in the Hudson Valley is deadlier as well; heroin-related deaths in the Hudson Valley have nearly doubled in the past four years and Johnson says most of the deaths are people under 30.
Johnson says many addicts start out with prescription pills and turn to heroin because it's cheaper and more potent. He blames an overprescription of painkillers like Oxycontin for the rise in heroin addiction.