By Lisa Hughes, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – Chances are it’s happened in your town, a heroin overdose, maybe even a death. Some call it an epidemic that doesn’t respect age, income or where you live. To find out more, we went to a support group called “Learn To Cope” where family members of addicts look for help, and gain strength.

“It’s one day at a time. Today I know he’s sober,” says one parent at the Thursday night meeting at Salem Hospital, at the North Shore Medical Center. The room is packed with about 70 people. The same scene plays out in 15 communities across the state, every week. After the meeting we spent time with a recovering addict and five parents whose children have been addicted to opiates.

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“The deaths are, it’s an epidemic here,” says Toby Channen, one of the parents who agreed to share their experiences in hopes of helping others. Kevin Koen’s daughter Emily is a recovering addict.

“Sticking a needle in your arm, when I was growing up, it was just so far off from, you know, a high school kid. It’s not that way anymore,” says Kevin.

Rhonda Ward’s son Zach is also recovering. “It would rip the family apart. You’d fight, you’d think it was your fault,” Rhonda says.

Katelyn started with prescription pills and eventually moved to heroin. While she was hooked she never thought she might become the drug’s victim. “No, not at all. I was just doing what I was doing, I was getting high. And I would see friends dying,” she says.

But even that didn’t scare her, at the time. “It’s scary now though. I’ve done so much hard work around my recovery that I’m restored to sanity, where before I was so insane that things like that didn’t bother me,” she adds.

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Kenny Washburn’s son Casey was a good student with lots of friends, but drugs changed everything. “My son died of a heroin overdose. It was almost as if we expected it and we had been through so much,” he says

Narcan (WBZ-TV)

Narcan (WBZ-TV)

Learn To Cope meetings feature Narcan training. Narcan is a drug that can stop an overdose and buy time to get an addict to the hospital. All of the people we talked to had Narcan at one time. But it has to be administered quickly.

Paula Stinson had Narcan when her son overdosed, but was too late. “He was gone too long to save him,” she says. Her son John was just 26. “You put him in the first rehab and you think, oh my God, thank God we caught this, and you don’t know that that’s only the beginning,” she says.

They all say Learn To Cope taught them how to stop enabling their kids with the kind of tough love that encourages recovery. Toby’s son Jacob is now in rehab. “Our kids don’t like it that we start going to the Learn To Cope meetings because all of a sudden we’re getting stronger,” Toby says.

That was Katelyn’s experience. “I would scream and tell my mom she was part of a cult, these people are crazy. She came home one day saying I just can’t give you any money any more,” she says.

Katelyn’s been sober four years, but everyone at the meeting knows it’s never really over. “It’s such a fine line from being clean, in recovery, and going the other way,” says Kevin.

By talking about the problem they’re making a difference, and we thank them for that. In addition to Learn To Cope, Paula and Kenny have started a chapter of a grief group for people who have lost someone to addiction called GRASP: Grief Recovery After Substance Passing. To find a meeting: http://grasphelp.org/meetings/

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