Heroin……Smack….. It’s one of the scary drugs I remember hearing about as a child. Being born in 1961, I was young at the height of the 60s when drug use first hit the scene in this country. I remember hearing horror stories about heroin, LSD and marijuana. For families of those kids that were using drugs, it must have been a horrible time. They had nobody before them that had gone through drug addiction in the style of the 60s. It was on television for the first time… its horrors and stories were live and in our living rooms. Click this link for a short history of drugs in America.
When we were in high school, we viewed a movie called Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. I had forgotten about it until the other day when my friend Sha said that movie had scared her to death about drugs, so she never used them. Schools and parents were afraid of drugs and the drug culture that was taking hold in what seemed to be another world when viewed from our small country town. But, drugs were there, too. I remember them being readily available. Thunderbird Beach – a man-made beach in our little town – held a Pop Festival. My Uncle was the parish sheriff, and they lived next door to Thunderbird Beach. We sat along the edge of their property in lawn chairs watching the “hippies” go in on buses to the festival. My Dad went in and took photographs for the newspaper. I remember being fascinated by this event that at once seemed so apocalyptic and funny. Those that “went in” brought stories back of watermelons being pumped full of vodka and mermaids being artistically carved on the beach. Us country folks had our first taste of what might be going on in California and other parts of the country. The world visited Watson that weekend, and we were there to watch from our lawn chairs like spectators at the raceway.
I’ve only been here six months, but I’ve started to hear numerous stories of heroin overdose in my meetings – meetings designed to provide comfort and support for those affected by addiction. I asked a friend of mine if it was a big local problem, but he didn’t seem to know that it was. Just last week a young girl was found in the Walmart parking lot in Denham Springs, deceased in her car from a drug overdose. I decided to google heroin to see whether or not this was a Baton Rouge thing or a national trend. Sure enough, when I searched “heroin, overdose, increase” city after city popped up with articles about heroin overdoses quadrupling this year … in 2014. It is alarming.
The theory is that addicts who are addicted to prescription drugs are running out of suppliers with the crack-down on prescription shopping. An addict will find a high. Heroin is cheaper than it used to be, and it’s also much more dangerous. They mix it with all kinds of stuff that is deadly. Heroin is deadly on its own, but add some other toxic stuff, and you have a prescription for disaster. Heroin is highly addictive. I’ve heard many addicts say they were addicted from their first use. For many, they don’t want to do needles, so they start smoking it. The addict searches desperately for the high, and the body acclimates. It takes more and more to get “there”. Needles probably don’t seem so bad after desperation sets in. Then, you have a straight line to your blood, increasing the chances of overdose.
There are many that get “clean” of addiction. But, the fact is that many … maybe even most … don’t. Because of the stigma of addiction, most people don’t talk about drug problems in their family until it is too late. It is kept a secret. They don’t seek help. They don’t realize that many people are struggling with the same problem. They suffer in silence while their children or spouse or parent quietly succumbs to a hell on earth. So often people think addicts have a choice about using. If they really wanted to get clean and “do right”, they would. The problem is that addiction hi-jacks the brain. The person that once existed is in there somewhere, but it’s as if they’ve been kidnapped. Until an intervention of sorts – external or internal – occurs, many won’t seek help. It’s not as easy as “stopping”. And, generally, relapse is part of the disease. You can’t “decide” to get well from addiction any more than you can with cancer.
My friend Buffy posted this article yesterday about a beautiful young woman who died from a heroin overdose last year. Pictures of her as a child and teenager peer out and remind me that this girl was not a statistic. She was someone’s little girl. She came home with hand-drawn pics of their family and hung them on the refrigerator. She cried when she skinned her knee. She went to a prom. She died of a heroin overdose. Buffy posted it along with a note that one of her dear friends died of the same disease a few years back and she named her little girl after her. Buffy’s friend was loved, too. She was not a statistic. She was a victim….. as were her friends and family. These short lives flamed out way too early. Who knows if they could have ever gotten “clean.” One fateful night they ingested too much, and their light was snuffed out.
When I moved to Chesterton IN, I remember reading about a surge of heroin overdoses in this little country town. In 2004, they were forming coalitions to battle the huge heroin problem they had there. That county was fourth in the country in heroin overdoses lining up right behind Philadelphia. Baton Rouge dwarfs that little town. The problem is here now. I’m not sure whatever happened in Chesterton. I’m not sure if they licked the problem, or the wave subsided. But, I do remember worrying about my stepchildren who were in high school at the time. I am way past the belief that anyone is immune to addiction. It is everywhere. It may be in your home. If not, it’s probably in one of your neighbor’s homes. But, apparently, heroin is back and bigger and badder than ever. It scares me.