Nov 17, 2013
06:56 AMThe Connecticut Story
Overdose Heroin Deaths Expose Torrington’s Struggle With Addiction
Jeffrey Stevens plunged the needle into his arm, nodding off as the heroin filtered through his blood. His breathing became so faint, a friend feared the worst when she discovered him later, slumped over in a car in Waterbury.
He should have died that night a few months ago. Stevens knows this, but said luck was on his side, like so many nights before. His friend, a nurse, administered CPR, saving him. After waking up inside a car, he was startled to see his friend crying.
“I was almost there. I almost finished the job. I was almost finally dead,” said Stevens. “That’s really what I wanted at that point.”
Stevens, 27, is from Thomaston, a town small enough that most people know of the drug addiction he’s dealt with, which means most people think of him as a junkie. He’s been kicked out of some restaurants in his hometown because managers said they “don’t serve junkies.” He recently moved back to Thomaston after spending some time in Phoenix, and he has family in nearby Torrington.
According to police, there were three suspected heroin-related deaths in Torrington over the weekend of Nov. 2-3. On Nov. 6, a possible fatal heroin overdose was reported in Winsted. In early September, three Litchfield County residents died of suspected heroin overdoses in a five-day period from Sept. 3 to 7. The victims ranged in age from 19 to 62, with varied backgrounds and from different socioeconomic classes.
Since the start of 2013, there have been nine suspected heroin-related deaths in Torrington. In 2012, five heroin-related deaths were reported. From 2008 to 2011, there were 11 heroin-related deaths reported in the city.
The number of deaths tied to heroin use also are up in Litchfield County, with 19 deaths reported this year. In 2012, 11 deaths were reported, up from four the previous year.
There have been four heroin-related deaths in New Milford this year; two each in Harwinton, Terryville and Woodbury; and one in Winsted.
Campion Ambulance serves about 160,000 people in Litchfield and New Haven counties, including Torrington. The city-contracted ambulance company responded to 20 heroin-related deaths since October 2012. All told, they’ve responded to 271 calls for suspected drug overdoses, said Fred Rosa, Campion Ambulance regional manager.
“There’s definitely been a rise in heroin use,” Rosa said. “It was never as prevalent as it was now.”
The apparent rise in heroin use also is impacted by a suspected “bad batch” of the drug. State officials in October warned that a mix of heroin and clenbuterol, a veterinary drug not approved for human use, could be in the local heroin supply. The mixture could be life-threatening.