Heroin users ending up in hospital psychiatric wards

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HIGH POINT, N.C. -- The heroin epidemic that is destroying large swaths of America has a new victim of its collateral damage: the psychiatric ward at your local hospital.

“This is not my first time here,” says Austin, who has been doing heroin for nearly seven years. “I've been here one time before. I've been to multiple rehabs, detoxes, I've tried to stop.”

"Here" is the psychiatric ward at High Point Regional Hospital, where Dr. Andy Farah works and understands the reason so many addicts end up in his care.

“Most addicts do have mood and behavior problems that either led them to the addiction or, arguably, are the result of the addiction,” says Farah.

The epidemic seems to have started from a good-faith effort to treat patients in hospitals.

“There was a philosophy, in health care,” says Farah, about the 1990s, “that we were undertreating pain.”

So opioids – once used only for palliative care – became mainstream.

Austin has a warning for those who, as he did, transitioned from prescribed painkillers to heroin.

“I'm the one who called the guy about the heroin and got the needle and put the needle in my arm. Nobody told me to do that,” he says. “Just don't put a needle in your arm. Because once you do that, it is a lifetime ordeal.”

See more of Austin’s story in this edition of the Buckley Report.