Monday was Shonta Lamb's 27th birthday. And that she is alive to see it is a gift.

'Now it's like, 'Wow. I escaped something,'' Lamb said, looking back on how many times she could have died.

'I'm lucky to be here.'

Lamb was a cheerleader at The Colony High School, a member of the Class of 2005. In early 2006, as she mourned the loss of a dear friend, she tried heroin.

'It numbed everything,' she said.

And by that summer, she was hooked.

'At my peak, I was doing a gram-and-a-half a day. That's $150 a day,' she said.

Lamb said she would steal to get the money to buy. She stole from loved ones, and she's ashamed of that.

'And I was doing it all the time. I carried it on me. I'd go to the bathroom and do it, at work,' she said.

At the time she held two jobs waitressing. 'I'd go in the bathroom stall and smoke it off foil I got from the back kitchen,' she explained.

Then she stopped.

'It's embarrassing,' Lamb now says -- but at the time she was using heroin, it wasn't embarrassing.

'It was surviving,' she said.

Shonta Lamb overdosed twice, but lived to use another day.

This is the first time Shonta has ever spoken publicly of what she went through for six years. She went to a 37-day rehab, but relapsed.

She got clean again, but relapsed again.

Lamb said she has now been off heroin for almost one year.

To the best of her knowledge, she never tried a batch like the heroin thought to be responsible for almost two dozen deaths on the East Coast. It is being mixed with the painkiller fentanyl.

'Fentanyl is a drug they give cancer patients,' explained Robb Kelly, an addiction counselor who leads the Robb Kelly Recovery Group in Southlake. He said mixing it with heroin is proving to be a lethal combination.

'It's kind of 100 percent more potent that heroin on its own, so it has the potential to kill a lot quicker,' Kelly said.

He said heroin remains a real problem in North Texas. 'It's more widely used than people think. I've lost count of how many friends have died from heroin overdoses,' he said.

'One myth around heroin is that it's only used by people that can't afford other drugs, and that's not the case,' he added. 'You know, we see affluent teenagers using it. We see superstars dying of this.'

The Dallas office of the Drug Enforcement Agency reports no evidence of fentanyl-laced heroin here, and Agent Tim Davis said he hopes he doesn't see it. He said some trends do move from region to region, but not all.

Overall, Davis said the U.S. saw a 45 percent increase in heroin deaths between 2006 and 2010.

Lamb now looks back on the last six years of her life with clarity. 'It's not worth it,' she said. 'I lost everything. The biggest thing was losing trust from everybody, and that's almost impossible to gain back.'

She said heroin is easier to find, and using it is easier to hide than any North Texas parent dreams.

'It's hard to tell people not to do it once they're doing it, because it's a lifestyle. It is how you survive day-to-day,' Lamb said. 'But to tell people never to start? Well, no one ever told me that.'

So she's telling anyone who will listen, as she celebrates 27 years on this Earth... the last one clean, sober, and safe.


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