PLANO -- If you thought heroin was history in North Texas, you're dead wrong.

New numbers show more and more young people in Texas are giving it a try. And it is often costing them their lives.

Plano made national headlines during the 1990s after a large number of young people died of heroin overdoses. Since then, heroin use has gone down, but it's a problem that's never really left the area.

'With heroin addiction, it's like having a child,' said Tyler Lung, an addict from Plano. 'That comes first -- before food, before sleep, before work or shelter.'

Lung has been clean for 100 days. He was in a Plano elementary school when teenaged students were dying of heroin overdoses in the late '90s.

Lung told us he started using heroin when he was 18 years old. He has spent the last eight years hooked on the powerful illegal drug.

'You might be able to get away with just doing it once,' Lung said, 'but if you try it a second time, you're hooked.'

Plano police say 16 years after the heroin epidemic, people are still dying of overdoses. They confirmed two deaths so far this year, and suspect overdoses in two others this month.

Collin County's Substance Abuse Program (CCSAP) offers mandatory counseling to young drug offenders. They report a steady stream of teens still using heroin.

'It's in every school district in Collin County,' said Grace Raulston, a CCSAP counselor. 'It's in every city in Collin County. It's not just unique to one.'

Raulston said a massive public education effort that rose from the 90s epidemic reduced the numbers of people snorting, ingesting, or shooting up. But she says it never went completely away.

'The kids say it's been offered,' Raulston said. 'But because of public education, a lot of them are turning it down. Some aren't.'

Tyler Lung said heroin ruined eight years of his life. He attended funerals of seven friends who died of overdoses, including one in Allen over the weekend.

'Last week, it was an old girlfriend of mine,' Lung said. 'So that was kind of rough.'

Police say they're using a three-pronged attack on the old problem that never went away: education, enforcement and community outreach.

E-mail sstoler@wfaa.com

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