By Dana Kozlov

(CBS) – Heroin: Health officials say it’s cheap and easy to get and, in some counties, it’s killing an alarming number of suburban teenagers and young adults.

Once hooked, young addicts say it’s almost impossible to get off the drug.

CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov talks to a teen about how the drug still threatens to ruin her life.

Glenview native Paula Nixon was going to college, but now her future hinges on one thing: staying clean.

She never thought she’d end up in jail. But then again, “I never thought I’d do heroin, either,” Paula says.

She was just a fresh-faced 16-year-old junior at Glenbrook South High School when she first tried heroin, after experimenting with alcohol and other drugs.

“I was hanging around people that did heroin, and the first time I snorted it, and after that, it was—”

She snaps her fingers. Her instant addiction and downward spiral had Paula shooting up before school and then stealing — and worse — to support her habit.

“Me and my boyfriend would combine money, and then we would go out West, get heroin, and come back,” she says. “Most of the time we wouldn’t even get to the highway before we were doing it because we couldn’t even wait.”

“West” means the West Side of Chicago, where Paula says most suburban users buy their heroin. But stealing is what ultimately landed her at Cook County’s Women’s Justice Program, where she’s getting treatment.

Health officials say Paula is just one of dozens of suburban high school kids using heroin.

Will County’s coroner calls it an epidemic. In that county alone, heroin deaths have almost doubled in the last two years.

Paula’s mother, P.J. Newberg, is speaking out — or at least trying — to organize heroin forums at north suburban schools and libraries.

“They don’t want to talk about it in the North Shore. They don’t want to admit there’s a problem,” she says.

But heroin has already killed four of her daughter’s friends, and she knows it could kill her own.

Paula admits if she cannot stay clean she could end up back in jail or dead.

She lives in Cook County, which does not track heroin deaths, something that frustrates her mom. But other counties do. It’s become such a problem in the western suburbs that the Robert Crown Health Center has started a heroin education program.

Paula Nixon is supposed to get out of jail in February.

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