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April 26, 2014

Locals testify on heroin problem in the North Country

PLATTSBURGH — The graphic story of the North Country’s version of the heroin epidemic came to light in a massive way Friday at a hearing designed to attack the problem.

“If I heard about someone overdosing, that’s the heroin I would want because I knew it was good,” recovering addict Shawn McKeen testified before the State Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction hearing at the Clinton County Government Center.

McKeen was one of several addicts, law-enforcement officials and treatment specialists to testify in the three-hour hearing hosted by State Sens. Betty Little of Glens Falls and Phil Boyle of Long Island, who chairs the Task Force.

‘I’M A MONSTER’

McKeen’s story was typical.

In his early 20s, he was given hydrocodone for a pinched nerve in his neck. He became dependent on the drug and sought it well beyond his prescription’s time period.

“I can’t explain why some people can take it and others can’t,” he said.

“It gave me a euphoric feeling, and I clung to it.”

McKeen said he thought he was a better son, employee and person when he was high. He couldn’t believe others would fall apart because of drugs.

But eventually, he found that using was not fun anymore. He got treatment, and in 2008 was clean and got a job as a counselor.

He relapsed in 2010 but noticed that it was more difficult to get prescription drugs. Heroin, however, was readily available on the streets.

McKeen said he would do just about anything, even consider homosexual acts though he is heterosexual, to get the drug.

“It’s sick,” he said.

The drug would transform him when he was high.

“When I’m using opiates or heroin, I’m a monster,” he said.

Although he is now clean, McKeen said every day is a struggle.

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