THE kids weren't all right. They lived in the same comfortable Long Island town and were barely in their teens when they took their first hit of marijuana or sip of alcohol, propelling them on dark journeys they couldn't seem to escape. Within a couple of years, they were in heroin's grip.
"My parents had no idea," said one of them, a 17-year-old girl who, like other formerly addicted youths interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of her past drug use. "My mom thought I was smoking a lot of weed and taking diet pills, because who would've thought that such a bad drug could be so easily accessible to me?"
The girl grew up in western Suffolk County, in a town where, she said, "everything is perfect," with white picket fences and two cars in each driveway; for her birthday last October, she received a black Jeep, and she went to a wealthy, high-performing public school. "Growing up, everything is pushed on you," she said. "You're trying to be the smartest, trying to compete with everyone."
Heroin, she said, was an escape. The girl said that she had not used drugs since entering rehabilitation in January, but that many of her former friends were still hooked on heroin, and at least two had fatally overdosed.
They are part of a new wave of heroin abuse that officials across the New York region are grappling to understand. During the first six months of 2009, 25 people in Nassau County died of heroin overdoses — more than from homicide and drunken driving combined; in 2008, 46 people fatally overdosed on heroin, up from 27 in 2007, according to Nassau officials.