Prescription painkillers seen as gateway to heroin - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Prescription painkillers seen as gateway to heroin

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A mother is facing felony charges after she passed out in a parking lot from using heroin while her one-year-old baby was in the back seat.

A shopping center off Research Blvd is where police say they found 22-year-old Courtney Welch unconscious Wednesday afternoon. The car was running and the baby was crying in the back seat.

Officers tried to wake up Welch by hitting the window but the Austin Fire Department ended up having to force open the driver's side door.

A syringe containing a brown substance was lying on her stomach, which was later determined to be heroin.

Welch was taken to St. David's Hospital and was incoherent for about three hours. Officers say they also found Xanax pills in her possession.

Welch is being charged with driving while intoxicated with a child passenger and possession of a controlled substance. But this isn't the first time the 22-year-old has been arrested. She has a prior DWI and theft charge.

A mother who was a former cocaine and heroin addict tells us how drugs can take over your life.

Cary Acevedo fought a long-hard battle with drugs. A fight that at the time, was negatively affecting her 12-year-old daughter.

"She was out in the car with me when I would even go to get the drugs. And again, not thinking. You know well she's innocent, she's just driving with me but not even thinking of her...only think of myself," Acevedo said.

It's been a transformation for Acevedo, who is now in recovery and works with others going through the process. But she says things have changed, noticing many people are becoming addicted to prescription painkillers first and it then progresses to heroin.

"Several women who were young, who had children who actually their children had been placed in foster homes. The sadness and guilt that you saw in these women, that they never meant to do that for their children either," Acevedo said.

According to the CDC, more than 12 million people reported using prescription painkillers nomadically in 2010.

Meanwhile, the substance abuse and mental health services administration says heroin use dearly doubled between 2007 and 2011, which doesn't come as a surprise to the Director of Admissions for Austin Recovery, Sarah Hartford.

"Clients will start using the opiates, pain pills for very legitimate reasons, they'll start because they have a very legitimate pain management issue so they'll go see a doctor and over time they'll find that their tolerance grows higher and the meds don't do the same as they did anymore. They'll also find that heroine is sometimes cheaper," Hartford said.

Hartford has noticed Vicodin and Oxycontin as being the opiates most commonly abused. If users can't get a hold of those, we're told they turn to heroin and use them interchangeably.

"You know, as a culture I think that we've gotten used to going to medications first when there might be some other options for some people that are appropriate to try.

She says the withdrawal symptoms can be extremely severe, a feeling that you need the drug at that very moment.

Acevedo knows firsthand.

It's crazy but as soon as we get it, it's like let me just do a little but just to even get me home. we don't even realize, we don't even think that we're in a parking lot doing what we're doing. That there's people around us," Acevedo said.

For those who are prescribed painkillers. Austin Recovery says if your tolerance is increasing but the pain is still there, ask your doctor about other options.

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