More than 250,000 people a year end up in the emergency room because of heroin use and deaths from overdoses are spiking.
By Kate Snow and Wonbo Woo, NBC News
Carol Christiansen, accompanied by her daughter, came to the Nightly News studios Monday to speak with us about losing her son, Erik Christiansen, to a heroin overdose. He was a police officer with the NYPD, something he had wanted to do since he was 3 years old.
Erik worked undercover, trying to bust the organizations that supply desperate people with drugs -- until he became one of them.
He would be 30 years old this year, but as Carol told us, "He's always going to be 28 and that breaks my heart. It breaks my heart that there's no future. There's no Erik being a sergeant, getting married, having children."
One day, on the morning of her son's funeral, Carol saw an article in the paper written by Susan Salamone. Susan had lost her son Justin in May 2012 to heroin addiction. Their families both represent the new face of the heroin epidemic: middle class and suburban, torn apart by a drug that is as cheap as it is nefarious.
After Carol saw the article, she contacted Susan and the two women set out to make a change. They founded a nonprofit called Drug Crisis in Our Backyard to help raise awareness and hopefully give other parents the tools they wish they had had -- or just to buy them some time.
It's their calling now. As Carol put it, "If I can help another family not to have the heartbreak and the loss of losing a child, the heartbreak that my family is going through, then I feel my day is complete."
Covering tragedies is a challenging aspect of the news business. But families like these -- they give us all a little hope.
Visit the website of Drug Crisis in Our Backyard for more information.