RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) --Janet Watrous and Bob Kochersberger never expected heroin addiction would land on their doorstep and shatter the all-American family they raised in their Raleigh neighborhood.
"I certainly thought of heroin addicts as poor people, struggling, a drug of struggle," said Watrous. "You wouldn't find a heroin addict in a neighborhood like ours ... and a family like ours."
But they watched as their little boy named Charlie became a young man who was hooked on heroin.
"We couldn't believe it was happening. And once we realized it was happening, we didn't realize how much work it was going to take to deal with it," said Kochersberger.
Charlie was a college graduate who taught kids in Wake County and was getting a master's degree in counseling at NC State.
One day, Charlie sat down in his parent's living room and told them about his struggle with heroin.
"We thought since Charlie had told us about this, we had kind of a leg up on the situation, you never have a leg up against heroin," Watrous explained.
Watrous is a pastor. Kochersberger is a former reporter and now a journalism professor at NC State. He went searching for details about Charlie's addiction and said he discovered Charlie's heroin dealer in East Durham.
"I wanted to kill him. I would've happily run him over with the car if I'd seen him on a street corner dealing," Kochersberger recalled.
He said his son drove hundreds of miles a week between Raleigh and Durham.
"The thought of just visualizing him making the buy, and then parking the car somewhere and getting out the paraphernalia, which he did use, the spoons, the tourniquets, the syringes, it's a pretty horrifying thing," said Kochersberger.
Mike Troster runs the Raleigh office of the Drug Enforcement Administration. He told ABC11 that heroin use in North Carolina is now widespread.
"It's definitely growing, a growing problem, especially among the parts of society that we wouldn't normally associate with heroin use, said Troster.
Troster explained that people who've gotten hooked on powerful prescription painkillers are switching to heroin when they can no longer get the pills.
"We are on the upswing of that cycle, and I don't know if we've peaked or not," he said.
Charlie Kochersberger wasn't just addicted to heroin. He also suffered from depression and went to rehab three times. His parents struggled to find comprehensive treatment.
"The mental health places won't take someone who's addicted, and if you go to an addiction center they treat only the addictions," said Watrous.
After battling heroin addiction for three years, Charlie committed suicide at the age of 28. Kochersberger has written a book about their heartbreak.
"It can happen to anybody, at any time, at any stage in life," said Kochersberger.
In the book, Charlie's parents share advice we can all learn from.
"You have every right to ask anything of where your children are, who they're with, and what they're doing, and where their money is going," said Watrous.
Charlie got hooked on heroin after first taking narcotic painkillers.
Mike Troster at the DEA says the most important thing you can do to protect your kids is to get rid of old prescription medicine in your house - so your kids don't get their hands on it - and run the risk of switching to heroin - like so many other people.
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