I continue to be alarmed with the news that heroin is becoming a more prevalent drug in our society. I was reminded of the reality of this just the other day when I saw a 20-year-old patient of mine whom I hadn’t seen in a while.
I remembered that during the end of his high school years his mother had called me about some issues he was having, but I never heard more and had not seen him for quite some time.
He came into the office for treatment of cough and cold symptoms. While I was taking the history of his illness, I also started asking him how he’d been and what he was doing now. He told me that he’d just recently gotten out of rehab, was working part time and planning to start taking some college classes.
While this young man certainly wasn’t the first patient of mine who’d been to rehab, he was the first to tell me he’d been a heroin addict. I was shocked, to say the least.
He was quite open as he told me he’d started smoking marijuana in high school and then had gone on to experiment with other drugs, including prescription narcotics, mushrooms and even meth. He was then introduced to heroin and, as he told me, “it is readily available around here and in almost any high school in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.”
He also told me that heroin is cheaper than many other drugs, so it may be a go-to drug.
What really struck me was when he said, “I cannot tell you the rush and euphoria you get with heroin. You are addicted the first time!” That certainly turned out to be true for him.
At some time in the previous two years, my patient also had been arrested and sent to jail for a drug-related crime, but once out he continued to use heroin until he finally accepted help and entered drug rehab. When we spoke, he’d been clean for months and was continuing to work on staying that way. I was proud of him, as well as his honesty in discussing his addictions. I pray that he may stay clean and sober, although he is smoking now. However, as he said to me, “that discussion is for another appointment.” Agreed.
The face of heroin addiction is not like I had thought. Rather than being strictly an inner city problem, it’s now affecting people across the country and in suburban neighborhoods and schools. If my young patient’s statement that he “was addicted the first time” holds true for others, then this is yet another discussion to have with our teens.
While some teens “experiment” with alcohol and marijuana, there’s no experimenting with heroin.