I am a recovering heroin addict. I have battled my addiction for ten years, and I am the new face of drug addiction. I am part of an epidemic that is in every small town and every suburb in America, and this is how it happened.
I came from a nice upper middle class town, outside of Nashville, Tennessee. I was a good student. My teachers liked me. I was put into the gifted program in elementary school and was college bound from as far back as I can remember. I had a very involved family and good role models all around me. My parents worked hard to keep me in the best school in our area. They did this because they didn’t want me to be exposed to inner city problems like crimes, drugs and gangs.
My freshman year was when I first started to experiment with any drugs. It seemed like every kid at my school was diagnosed and being treated for something. ADHD, social anxiety, depression, and weight loss were treated with various medications. We were all warned through the anti-drug programs in school that marijuana was a gateway drug, and to stay away from drugs like cocaine and LSD, but prescription medications didn’t seem as dangerous. After all, we got them from doctors and most of our parents kept some in a medicine cabinet, so we would trade medicine at school and parties.
Medications are the new gateway drugs. Kids don’t have to go to a “drug dealer” anymore. Almost every adult has been prescribed pain pills from an old injury, sleeping pills or anxiety drugs to help with long flights. I found that most people don’t take all of their medication and they forget what’s in the medicine cabinet. We would go through all of our parent’s medications, and go online to look up which pills would get us high.
As with any addiction, some people are more susceptible to getting hooked. Many of my friends took pills on the weekends, and left it at that. Others started taking them more frequently. I started to spiral into addiction after discovering pain pills. These are the most common pills in homes because doctors prescribe various amounts for surgeries or minor injuries.
In time my grades dropped. I quit hanging out with any friend that didn’t get high everyday. By my junior year, I was physically dependent on narcotic pain medication. I couldn’t get high on a weaker medication like Hydrocodone anymore. So I would find people with serious back injuries or cancer and buy strong drugs like Oxycontin and Morphine. A lot of these people have expensive medical expenses and are more than happy to sell some of their medications.
As my tolerance increased, I had to crush and snort the pills to feel them. This is when I stopped going to school. My family was confused and upset. How did I go from an honor student to skipping school everyday? They tried therapy, but I was completely out of control at this point. I couldn’t find enough pills to keep feeding my addiction, and I was experiencing full physical withdraw when I didn’t have them.
I started hanging out with a different kind of drug addict. These people were older, and sold stronger drugs to maintain their habit. Soon, I was introduced to heroin. It was the next progressive step for me in my addiction, once Oxycontin and Morphine stopped being effective. I went from smoking it to injecting it in less than a week.
Unfortunately my story is not unique. I have many friends that ended up on heroin after becoming addicted to pills. It is cheap, dangerous, and easily obtained. Seven people from my graduating high school class have overdosed and died. They were all under twenty-five. They say that IV drug users only have a 10 percent recovery rate. I don't know how true that is, because lots of recovery goes unreported, but even if it's true, I will do everything I can to be among those 10 percent. Today I am clean and sober. Heroin is a plague that is hitting small town suburbia faster and harder than ever before. It used to be the “bad” kids who got mixed up in drugs. This is no longer the case. Kids with caring parents, kids in gifted programs and kids on the honor roll, are taking drugs. Look at me closely, because me and other people like me are the new faces of addiction.