At 54, a successful local businessman from Cortland thought he had put heroin addiction behind him. He's asked CNYCentral to conceal his identity.
"In fact, 9,063 days was the actual time that it was that I had no drug or alcohol use of any kind," says unidentified businessman.
A user in the 1970's and 1980's, he turned his life around when he got clean and sober in 1987. He got married, had a child, and became the CEO of his company.
After being clean for 24 years, he had some medical problems in his early 50's. After seven surgeries over two and half years, his doctors prescribed him painkillers.
"It brought back that monster that was always there...I hadn't been on the streets in 25 years and it took me less than a day to find what I was looking for," says unidentified businessman.
It was just as easy for Matthew Connor Hudson, 23, who found himself on those same streets looking for heroin.
"It is everywhere. I guarantee you there's someone walking down Main Street right now with heroin in their pocket," says Hudson.
Hudson was raised in an upper middle class family, played three sports in high school, and got good grades, but still found himself abusing heroin at age 17 following an addiction to prescription painkillers.
"I had probably about a $150/day habit for heroin. A 20-year-old kid doesn't have that kind of money to support it so you look to stealing things," says Hudson.
After being in and out of jail, Hudson made the decision to get sober at 23, an age too late for many of his friends.
"You know I counted up the other day, I've had 18 people that I was fairly close with that are dead before 24 because of it," says Hudson.
Heroin is claiming more lives than ever before. According to the Cortland County Coroner, there were four heroin overdose deaths in 2013. Cortland has already exceeded that number this year, with six deaths in 2014.
As Chief of Police for the City of Cortland, F. Michael Catalano can't ignore the growing trend.
"We're finding a lot more of it in the city. We've made more arrests, we've confiscated more packets of heroin than we have in a long, long time," says Catalano.
As Director of Cortland Prevention Resources, Kimberly McRae Friedman says one reason may be the crackdown on prescription painkillers with the I-Stop Act that Governor Cuomo signed into law in 2012.
"Cracking down on prescription drugs, when you push in that area, you're going to push people who are abusing those drugs into another area. That's an unintended consequence," says Friedman.
A n unintended casu a lty of the war on drugs is now creating the latest crisis, a massive heroin problem that's affecting people of all ages and all walks of life, in communities large and small.