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Heroin: Recognizing the Signs, Seeking Help Archived Discussion Room

Fairfax County, Virginia

Heroin: Recognizing the Signs, Seeking Help

The number of deaths from heroin overdose doubled between 2013-2014, and Fire & Rescue personnel responded to almost 300 suspected heroin overdoses between 2011-2014 in Fairfax County. Join us on Friday, March 18 at 11 a.m. as Lyn Tomlinson, M.ED., CCS, CADC, assistant deputy director of the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board and Captain Jack T. Hardin, commander, Fairfax County Police Department Organized Crime and Narcotics Division, answer your questions regarding the increasing prevalence and risk of heroin and opiate addictions facing our community. Please join us to learn how to recognize drug use, overdoses, and how you can help a loved one, colleague, or neighbor facing addiction. There is help. There is hope. You’re not alone.

Lyn Tomlinson : Good Morning. Welcome. I am here with Captain Jack Hardin and Lt. Jimmy Cox with the FCPD. We appreciate your interest and the opportunity to provide information to the community about opioids and efforts to address the usage and overdoses in our community.

Burpee : Have you considered subsidizing suboxone treatment, so that addicts can afford the prescription necessary for them to detox and stay off heroin? It is not addictive or subject to abuse like METHADONE. There is a part of suboxone that is combined, I think Naloxone is the name. It makes opiates not work. So the addict will not suffer very much from withdrawal and will not get high if they cheat.

Lyn Tomlinson : The Fairfax Falls Church Community Services (CSB) offers treatment based on a sliding scale and accepts insurance. The CSB does offer suboxone. Please call 703 383 8500 for additional information. The CSB works with all individuals regardless of the ability to pay.

Matt : My question is about arresting heroin dealers. Is there a pattern to the dealers you arrest i.e. is it gang-related? If so, what are the names of the gangs? If the perpetrator arrested for dealing is an illegal alien, does Fairfax county work with ICE to facilitate their deportation?

Jack Hardin : Hi Matt,  according to what we have been seeing, there is no pattern with the dealers PD arrests.  This is not a gang related problem and we have not arrested an illegal alien(s) concerning dealing heroin. 

Anonymous User : How has heroin addiction impacted crime in Fairfax County in general, and Bren Mar/Franconia neighborhoods in particular?

Jack Hardin : So far, heroin addiction has not impacted crime in Fairfax County.  There is always crime connected with illegal drug use, such as larcenies, but there have been no spikes.

Anonymous User : I read something about new federal rules this week for prescription medicines. How will those help the fight against overdoses?

Jack Hardin : You are correct, new federal rules with prescription medicines are under review.  Basically, they are looking to limit prescription pain meds.  Studies have shown that pain meds are a precursor to heroin use. 

Andy : is there anything being done to work with doctors to decrease the amount of pain medications and other gateway drugs?

Jack Hardin : This question is similar to question 8. The Feds are reviewing options with the belief that pain meds are being over prescribed, which is leading to addiction.

Anonymous User : Thank you so much for all that you are doing! I've experienced first hand the devastation of this disease by having an addicted loved one. Along with educating regarding the opiate-heroin relationship, bringing awareness to our community, providing resources here in Fairfax which is wonderful, how can we get help to those suffering OUTSIDE the County lines, spreading any help outwards??. Many travel from County to County for whatever they can do to get help and are turned down. So many want help and have no money and waiting lists for help are extreme. People die while waiting! Any thoughts on funding for more State-wide help? What more can we do?? So many want to help and don't know how. Thank you

Lyn Tomlinson : Thank you for your kind words. Addressing the heroin/opioid epidemic is a community effort. We strongly encourage you to reach out to people who may affect change (your congressional representative). The State Director of Substance Abuse Services has told us they are very concerned with the heroin/opioid epidemic and the State has it's own task force. The Governor's budget, currently under consideration, includes funds for treatment of heroin/opioid addiction. Please contact the state website for further information. For individuals who do not reside in Fairfax County or the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, please contact your local CSB for information and referral. Additionally, SAMHSA provides a treatment locator.
Also, please see the Fairfax website related to heroin/opioids
This website provides information on training for Project Revive. Project Revive is approximately a one hour training such that individuals, including those using heroin/opioids, family members and other loved ones can use to literally revive individuals who have overdosed. The medication used is Naloxone, known as narcan, and literally reverses an opioid overdose. Individuals who take the training will be given a prescription for naloxone.

Sue : My 22-year old son is celebrating 7 months of sobriety from oxy, heroin and xanax. I don't have a question. I'd like you to discuss treatment options for loved ones going through this. The most expensive isn't always the best option. We went that route and it failed miserably. Fairfax County-sponsored programs - CATS and A New Beginning - helped my son more than the high-dollar rehab.

Lyn Tomlinson : Congratulations to your son and to you. Thank you for showing us that recovery is possible. For adult residents of Fairfax County and the cities of Fairfax and Falls Church, individuals may contact the Fairfax Detox at 703 502 7000. Also residents can simply walk into the CSB Merrifield Center (lower level) Monday through Friday from 9 am until 5 pm for an assessment. This assessment takes about 2 hours and will determine the level of treatment needed. The CSB offers intensive outpatient, day treatment, residential and detoxification services. Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) is available with all programs.

crystal : 1. Are there currently any preventative measures in regards to outreach in high schools/ secondary schools, discussing the dangers of heroin or opiate use? 2. For the individuals currently suffering from addiction, are there free detox facilities or free rehabilitation facilities available to them? What is the procedure and current resources for getting free help; I’m sure many people that are using hold jobs, but so many probably do not work and probably do not have health care. Thank you.

Lyn Tomlinson : The community, including schools, the CSB and community partners, offer education and preventative presentations throughout the community. For example this week, Saturday Night in the Suburbs, was offered at Woodson and Westfield High school. Teens discussed what happens regarding drug use and school and CSB staff were available to answer question and offer resources. Also, drug education and prevention is part of the FCPS curriculum. In 8th and 9th grade heroin and opioids are specifically addressed. In speaking with an attendee, both presentations were full. We very much appreciate the presence of parents for these presentations.

Please call 703 383 8500 for assistance. The CSB accepts insurance and offers a sliding scale for those with limited resources. Also, individuals can walk into the CSB Merrifield site, 8221 Willow Oaks Corporate Drive Monday through Friday 9 am until 5 pm for an assessment for heroin/opioid use. We hope those who are in need of help can access these resources and start your journey on recovery.

Anonymous User : What are the early, obvious signs a parent should be looking for ?

Lyn Tomlinson : Thank you for your question. Parents/guardians, please make sure to secure your medications and safely dispose of any you are no longer using. The next medication take back event is April 30, 2016 8 am 2 pm. You may drop off unused/unwanted medications at any local police district station. Please keep an eye out for any medication that is missing. This could be a sign that medication is being taken for a use in which it was not intended. Also, if you see any materials normally not used in your home such as a stained/burned spoon, lighter, syringe. Also, see your child has pills they have not been described. Email if you find a substance that you think may be heroin or another drug.

Be attentive to mood swings, increased secretiveness, change in friends, loss of interest in previous activities. These are also behavioral of teenagers. Feel free to call 703 383 8500 to discuss what you are seeing and speak with staff about what may be occurring.

Anonymous User : Is there a combination therapy that includes care/tx of the compulsion aspects of addictions?

Lyn Tomlinson : Yes, medication assisted treatment (MAT) is used in combination with treatment. In treatment, individuals learn coping skills to manage craving, refusal skills and pro social recovery skills. MAT can assist with cravings for drugs. Individuals in treatment are introduced to community supports for on going recovery after treatment. These community supports may include Narcotics Anonymous, faith based support, Smart Recovery or other support that works for the individual.

Harry Goldfarb : Opiates aren't new. The heroin "epidemic" isn't new. It seems like heroin and opiate addicts have been given the spotlight recently and are now being treated in "higher regard" than other addicts. Why aren't all drug offenders/addicts being provided with legal options like we've seen lately with regards to heroin/opiate offenders/addicts?

Jack Hardin : You are correct, heroin use is not new.  But lately we have been seeing alarming rises in heroin use, overdoses and deaths.  Last year heroin deaths overcame traffic related deaths in Virginia.  We are not seeing this with other drugs, this is truly an emergency.

As far as legal options, all drug offenders/ addicts receive similar legal options.. ie. defense attorney's working with CWAs to get their clients into rehab before their court dates.  If you need help, all you have to do is ask.

Alice : Do you plan to visit schools to inform teens about heroin and other drug usage before they close in June?

Lyn Tomlinson : At the request of the schools or any community organization, we, CSB/Police, would certainly make a presentation to teens about heroin and other drug usage. As stated in another question, heroin and opioids are specifically addressed in the health curriculum and teens and their parents are participants in community events geared toward community education and prevention of heroin/opioid and other drug use. FCPS and the CSB regularly participate in events addressing drug use. These events include two events this week, Saturday Nights in the Suburbs. These events occurred at high schools and teens participated.

Anonymous User : I know that there is a yearly drug takeback program operated by the DEA and that recently Walgreens has announced that they will accept unused medicines for disposal. Do you think that part of the problem is that unused medicines are so accessible to people since there is not a safe, convenient way to dispose of excess medications?

Lyn Tomlinson : Thank you for your question. Often an addiction may begin when individuals take medications that are not prescribed for them. This is why safe medication disposal is so important. While the medication take back days are very successful and convenient for the community, here is addition information on safe medication disposal:

In addition to take back days, the above website offers additional ways to safely dispose of unused/unwanted medications. These ways are safe and convenient and can be done at home.

Alice : If a person overdoses around witnesses, witnesses tend to leave the person for dead for fear of being arrested. Please address this. Thanks for all that you do for our lovely county!

Jack Hardin : There is a law that protects witnesses. "The Good Samaritan Law" was recently passed to protect witnesses who reports opiate overdoses.  If you have additional questions ref this you can contact Lt. Cox at

Lyn Tomlinson : On behalf of Captain Hardin, Lt. Cox and I, we would like to thank you for your participation in this chat. For further information, please take time to review the Fairfax County website on heroin/opioids.

Please consider taking free Project Revive course. These courses will teach you to use narcan
 and literally reverse an opioid overdose.

As a community, we are all in this together.