I used to spend time with a guy, named Bryan, who I met in a 12 Step meeting after he had relapsed on heroin and got sober again. At the time, we both decided we hated going to meetings, and agreed that money seemed like a much more attractive higher power. He soon started using again and as “the people of the program” had predicted, things quickly became out of control and quite unmanageable for him – and anyone in his way. I remember on a Sunday afternoon, his roommate, who was sober and going to meetings and working the steps sent me a concerned text, “When was the last time you saw Bryan?!” My stomach turned inside out with intuition that something was wrong immediately.
Moments later I received another text stating that Bryan had been found alone, overdosed on heroin, locked in his room choking on his own vomit, cutting off the oxygen supply to his brain for an unspecified amount of time. Bryan was rushed in an ambulance to the local hospital ER and was put on life support, unresponsive to staff.
I jumped in my car and raced down to the ER. Walking into the room, I slowed as I saw the machines hooked up to his body, the pumps breathing for him, the repeated sound and reminder that he was actually not alive by his own efforts. The overall sadness and creepy feelings I had were overwhelming. What happened to him? How was this man in so much pain that he shoved a needle full of a lethal amount of heroin in his body and threw caution to the wind? This guy, Bryan, was normally a happy-go-lucky, laughing, energy-filled sunshine-to-the-rain type of person, and yet here I stood looking at a ghostly white, not-even-really-alive version of him hooked up to a respirator, fighting for his life at the young age of 33. Maybe the person I saw in front of me, maybe that was the REAL Bryan? Maybe that was the truth in front of me, and he’d practically killed himself trying to hide it from everyone…
From 2006 to 2012, the amount of young adult Americans using heroin at an abusive level was reported to have doubled in number. It is no surprise that heroin abuse is on the rise, more people are experiencing an intense high, however, it comes with more dangerous risks and negative health effects that occur from repeated use. Heroin addiction has been identified as the most, or one of the most, important drug abuse issues affecting young adult Americans from coast to coast.
Anyone is a good potential candidate for heroin addiction. Many get hooked on opioid medications that are prescribed for the treatment of pain, such as Oxycontin, Vicodin and Demerol. The demand for these medications has dramatically increased in recent years. These drugs can be deceiving. Often, because they are supplied by a trusted source, the family physician or your local pharmacist, professionals we trust, it’s easy to believe that these drugs are safer and have less harmful health consequences resulting from abuse rather than heroin, which has to be found on the street. Little does the consumer know that abuse of these pills can actually lead to potential overdose, heroin addiction, and even death. Some individuals reported the only reason they used heroin instead of pharmaceuticals was because of the lower cost to maintain the addiction.
There are a variety of medical complications from heroin addiction including:
- Lung Complications
- Spontaneous Abortion
- Mental Disorders
- Sexual Dysfunction
- Collapsed Veins (IV users)
- Bacterial Infections of the Heart Valves
- Soft Tissue Infections
- Clogged Blood Vessels
- HIV and AIDS
- Liver and Kidney Disease
- Hepatitis B & C
Luckily we live in a nation with plentiful resources for Heroin Addiction Treatment. Chances are good that if you have some kind of health insurance whether it’s government funded or private pay, you will have a detox and short term treatment stay covered somewhere to deal with getting sober. There are medications available to help treat heroin addiction, they work through the same opiod receptors as the addictive drug, but are safer and less likely to produce harmful behaviors that characterize addiction. Medications offered by treatment centers to help detox might include Methadone, Buprenorphine – also called Subutex and Suboxone – or Naltrexone. These medications used in a combination with behavioral therapy treatment increase a person’s chances of achieving sobriety and eliminating any cravings.
They say sometimes you have to step into the darkness to shine at your brightest potential. Bryan survived the overdose and ended up being taken off life support and having minimal brain injuries. He was taken out of state to a long term treatment center to deal with the underlying issues that drove him to use drugs over and over again. Today, Bryan has almost a year clean and sober. Proof that treatment works if we let it.
Maybe it will feel worse before it feels better, at least that’s what they tell you in meetings, but confronting the pain and issues that you aren’t dealing with builds character and strength, and allows us to grow into a joy-filled and purposeful life free from substance abuse and drug addiction.
-Written by, Ivy Chase.