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CNN Chronicles Heroin's Impact On One Missouri High School

By Kelly Burch 10/20/16

A new CNN special shows the high toll of heroin in a high school where the overdose rate is more than four times the national average. 

CNN Chronicles Heroin's Impact On One Missouri High School
Kirkwood High Student Kolton Kaleta shares his experience with heroin addiction with CNN Photo: via YouTube

It’s no secret that heroin addiction is spreading through the country, affecting hundreds of thousands of families and claiming victims that are younger and younger. However, CNN’s recent visit to a Missouri high school that has been riddled with heroin deaths paints a frightful picture of the epidemic. 

As part of the series “Heroin: The Poisoning of America,” CNN reporter Deborah Feyerick visited Kirkwood, a suburb of St. Louis that has an overdose rate more than four times the national average. 

There she met Kolton Kaleta, a high school student who tried heroin for the first time at 15. 

“I’d describe Kirkwood as your perfect American dream: nice houses, the best schools,” Kaleta said, adding that all of that makes the suburb a particularly lucrative target for drug dealers. 

“What the dealers kind of look for are people who are more affluent and from better off neighborhoods. That way they know they have the money to actually go and get it,” Kaleta said. 

In Kirkwood, a town of 30,000, the median income is more than $77,000, giving many of the high school students plenty of access to cash to support their habits. Because of this, heroin use is widespread at the high school, Kaleta said. 

“The people that use heroin in Kirkwood can be anywhere from the honors student to your typical teenage stoner,” he said. 

Kaleta tried heroin for the first time and wasn’t impressed. However, his peers urged him to try it again. “I saw everyone else was raving about it and thought maybe I would try it again,” he said. From that second try, Kaleta soon progressed into full-blown addiction. 

“It’s not like you wake up one day and think that you’re going to be a heroin addict,” he said. “It progresses from the small stuff—pot, alcohol, cigarettes—and just keeps going.” 

Getting heroin in town is as easy as sending a text. “It’s like that,” Kaleta said with a snap of his fingers. 

A text is how Ally Porter contacted her dealer, who texted her back bragging about the potency of his drugs: “They’re like fire. There’s no BS.”

Porter was just 16 years old when she snorted heroin and died instantly. 

“I wish I had all the money in the world so I could buy all the heroin in the world,” she wrote in a journal that her father discovered after her death. After Porter died, a second student at Kirkwood High School overdosed. Just after CNN’s filming, a third student died. 

After the overdose deaths, 80 students at the school reached out for help—including Kaleta. “It kind of tore me open inside,” he said. 

Kaleta has now been in recovery since Oct. 20, 2015. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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