I had absolutely no idea heroin was a problem anywhere. I had not heard of anyone shooting up since the early 1990s. My last encounter where I had to come face to face with the deadly narcotic was back in 1995 when I was the lead singer in a band called Quixotic. We were an alternative rock band with a great sound and a diverse look. Just when our following was beginning to grow and we were in demand, Quixotic took a turn. Our drummer, who was a very good friend of mine I introduced to the band, began to miss rehearsals. We would not see him all week in Eddy's basement for our regular jam sessions, but he would pop up minutes before show time at the venue. Eddy pulled me aside and said we needed to replace our drummer. I defended my friend and assured Eddy that everything was okay. I noticed my good friend had bouts of sweat and wore turtlenecks every time I saw him. His behavior was abrupt and he just did not seem himself at all. Finally one night he showed up minutes before show time to the club, but he had sold his drums as well as his new Volvo. The band wanted to kill him. We could not hit the stage that night. I took my friend outside of the nightclub into the cold air and demanded he tell me what was going on with him. He broke down and told me he was using heroin and only showed up to the club to borrow some money from me. He was sick and I did not know what to do.
My friend disappeared into the night and I would not hear from him again until almost a year later. He called me from a hospital for military veterans. He sounded like himself again. I was so happy to hear from him. He explained he had hit rock bottom with a heroin overdose. Slowly dying in a crack house, the addicts high on crack cocaine dragged his body out onto the sidewalk and told him he could not die there. His wife rescued him off the streets as he was near death. I drove out to the hospital to see my friend and he looked better than ever. We wrote letters (before we were using email) and he appreciated my support because all of his other friends cut ties from him during his addiction. Today he has not touched a drug or a drink since 1997. Looking at him you never would have known heroin had at one time controlled his life. After my good friend, I had not even heard the word heroin again. Then I was assigned to write about the monster taking over Columbus, Ohio. I was floored by the growing number of users in the midwest.
On average, according to the state's statistics, a reported three people are dying a day everyday in Ohio. Unbelievable! This number reflects heroin users who have died. The number of deaths shoots up to seven per day dying from overdose when the users mix the drug with pills.
I know you are probably thinking the same thing I am; Ohio is a quiet state. How can this calm midwestern state of hardworking farmers ever land on the map for having a growing epidemic of heroin deaths - mostly children. How in this world did this happen?
Many of the surviving heroin users explain that the drug found them in the suburbs of Columbus through prescription pills. They all share similar experiences where they start with marijuana at a party and then someone told them to try some pills. No longer using needles, a spoon, and a belt to tightly wrap around their arm to get a good vein to inject the heroin into, kids today pop heroin in pill form or smoke it. Cheaper than other narcotics, but ten times stronger, it has become the drug of choice - even with a frightening death toll.
The intense high is addictive for teenagers. They report that it fills a void in their life. I cannot imagine a void being so consuming in a young person's life who has not graduated high school yet or gotten out into the real world to really deal with some real voids.
One student, who remains anonymous, describes smoking heroin relaxes him and he is able to be himself in social settings. As more and more Columbus, Ohio parents are losing their children to the drug, the community is coming together to educate one another on the warning signs.
Parents warned that you do not see the signs until it is almost too late. When a heroin addict realizes they cannot function without a hit, many of them become too embarrassed to ask for help, at that point. The severe cases of heroin addicts will graduate to shooting the drug up their veins. Once the drug takes over, the addict's life spirals out of their control, stealing money and valuables from family members and eventually strangers in order to get their fix. It takes me back to my good friend selling his new car and his drums, desperately pleading for money to the point of anger.
Heroin addicts get clean after reaching rock bottom, if they are lucky. However, many of them relapse and that it where majority of the overdoses occur - during a relapse. Very few survive a heroin addiction. How this epidemic has taken over Columbus, Ohio, I still do not understand. When I think of heroin addicts, I think of big, fast-moving cities with users hanging out in an alley. Envisioning a clean, suburban town with teens shooting up in their parents finished basement is just heartbreaking.
While many of us are in denial that children are using a hard drug like heroin, there are services out there for those wanting to help free themselves from the monkey on their back or assist their children to health and wellness again.
Netcare is a 24-hour mental health and substance abuse crisis and assessment services for Franklin County, Ohio. They can be contacted at 614-276-CARE or www.netcareaccess.org. Reach out and get help. Heroin is one of the tougher drugs to kick on your own without help because the withdrawals will make an addict deathly ill. Prayers out to all those who are losing the battle, but determine to get back some how. I know that it is possible. My good friend today is a great Father, a skateboard champion at the age of 40, in better shape than guys in their 20s, teaches computer science to high school students, and plays the drums in his own band. He steers clear of anyone using drugs and he has no desire to face death again anytime soon. He is enjoying his life and recommends getting help to those struggling to kick a heroin addiction on their own. He believes if he could do it, anybody can. But you gotta wanna live...