Hank's Take: Why opioid addiction turns into heroin addiction

Hank Flynn is with Atlantic City Crust Kings' Erik Fischetti at the Knock Out Opioids Town Hall.

They're talking about a lot, but Hank's Take is … there's one key thing missing.

It's another day in the heart of the heroin epidemic.

Today? Atlantic County, starting in Atlantic City, where Hank met Jamie Sewell who had his first scrape with heroin looking through a keyhole.

"But me being a little guy," Sewell said, "I was being nosy and I looked in that hole. And I seen him sticking a needle in his arm. And I said oooh! And I said I'm never going to do that. Lo and behold, 30 years later, that's what I was doing."

Jamie has been clean for 15 months. He's enrolled in a local methadone program and going to all the NA meetings he can.

Jamie says he was just lucky. He qualified for rehab program money due to a preexisting condition.

"And other people don't have it," Sewell explained. "They want to get help, but they can't get it. They can't get it because they don't have enough money and they only got Medicaid."

That was one issue among many being discussed a couple miles away in Galloway at Stockton University, at the Knock Out Opioids Town Hall.

Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner says you can use the law to crack down all you like, but:

"We cannot arrest our way out of this problem, in my opinion. Maybe some others disagree," Tyner argued. "We've tried that before, for too many times and for too many years. And we have too many lives to show for it that it didn't work."

The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey says that four out of five new heroin users abused prescription pain killers before turning to heroin.

And the National Institute on Drug Abuse says prescriptions for painkilling opioids have skyrocketed 250 percent since the early '90s.

So why the increase?

Erik Fischetti works with addicts.

"It's pretty obvious," Fischetti knows. "It's the money. And that money is never going to stop pouring in because people like to kill pain."

That makes sense. Money is at the root of a lot of things.

And getting those prescription opioids? The guys tell me it's a piece of cake, even for a recovering addict.

Sewell: "I was in the back for three minutes. He wrote me a prescription. I tore the prescription up."

Hank: "Will they write you a painkiller prescription?"

Sewell: "Absolutely. They didn't see me. They didn't even check me."

Hank: "What did they write you up for?"

Sewell: "Percocets, like they do all the time. Percocets - Volume 10's - and all that crazy stuff."

Heroin is 50 problems rolled into one. We know that.

But when prescription opioid addicts turn into heroin addicts, and doctors are prescribing those prescription painkillers like there's no tomorrow, you've got to wonder why.

Must be the money.

There'll be more to come.

I'm Hank, and that's my take.