I will start this post with a warning that it is not going to be an easy one to read. It’s not light hearted, and off topic of what I usually write about, but it’s life, it’s reality and it has to stop being ignored.
Heroin addiction needs to be talked about.
More than 50,000 Americans died from a drug overdose last year. The most ever recorded in history.
Let that sink in for a second.
Heroin deaths alone rose 23% in this past year, to 12,989, slightly higher than the number of gun homicides, according to government data. Yes, there were more heroin overdoses than people killed by guns last year.
It feels like every day lately I hear of a young person dying from a drug overdose. It has become an epidemic sweeping our country and there is no end in sight… Except for the death of so many.
What I want to do is, draw attention to this epidemic, without casting judgement, without pointing fingers and without ignorance.
Friends, this is affecting everyone. This is no longer a small part of our population. This is no longer (nor has it ever really been) an issue among people living on the streets and hanging out with “the wrong crowds”. These drugs are taking are our sisters. Our brothers. Our nieces. Our nephews. Our sons and our daughters. These teens and young adults that are dying daily due to overdose are coming from all backgrounds. They are coming from all different economic statues, and all different beliefs systems. They are kids who are athletes and involved in youth groups. They are amazing artists and straight A students. This drug epidemic is taking kids from good homes, who are loved and cherished by many. So, Yes it’s sweeping the nation, and yes it’s doesn’t care who it takes out with it. Drugs do not discriminate. They do not care about race, age, sexuality, or gender.
And it doesn’t stop there. These same drugs are taking parents away from babies. If I have to read one more article about a child being found alone, starved, terrified, dead… Because their parents have over dosed, and they were left behind, I may actually be physically sick. My stomach turns and my heart breaks. This drug is destroying lives of men and women all around our country, ever single day. And all I can do is wonder…
What if one of my children gets wrapped up in these drugs one day? What if one day they are presented with this drug and they are pissed off enough, high enough, drunk enough, or curious enough to say yes. Then what? What become of them? What becomes of our family? What becomes of life. And honestly this thought destroys me. The mere thought of knowing this is a possibility scares me to death. But what I refuse to do is sit back and say “Not me. Not my kids” because if I were to do that, I would become part of the problem. I would be ignoring one of the deadliest things my kids will likely have exposure to at some point in their lives. And I would be ignorant.
We spend so much time when they are young “baby proofing” everything we can to ensure their safety. But unfortunately we can’t “teen or young adult proof” their lives as much as we would like to. But what we can do is refuse to ignore the signs. I want to stop here and say not all parents who find themselves in this situation have ignored a single sign. I personally know a few parents who knew right away and did everything in their power to help, and honestly that was effective in their case. They were proactive immediately and in time their kids got the help they needed and have now been clean for quite some time. However, it’s not a guarantee. Sometimes a parent will do everything in their power, but it didn’t matter. The drugs wins out.
You’re probably thinking at this point… well that’s a depressing thought. They try their absolute best and they still buried their child. And the answer is yes. This should be about the time you stop and really reflect on this. This should show you how strong these drugs are. This should be a wake up call, shaking every fiber of your being wide awake. Eyes wide open.
This drug doesn’t care about you.
This drug doesn’t care about how loved this person is, or how cute they are, or how well established a person might be.
And by this drug I mean heroin. And by heroin I mean our children. When a person becomes a drug addict, they become the drug. They don’t feel your love anymore. They forget about how life used to be, and before they know it they are chasing a high just to feel “normal” again. And that’s all that matter to them. We need to see this. We need to understand this. And we need to do everything we can to try and fight this.
You’re probably saying, wait, you just said our help may not matter? And my answer to you would be, Well it might not… But… It just might be exactly what helps them. And that’s worth finding out, right?
How we can help?
Stop ignoring the signs.
Some signs to look for according to experts are:
Lack of interest in what they used to like to do, change of friends, always tired, or super energetic without reason, money going missing, depression, lying becoming a pattern, not being emotionally invested in people they once cared deeply about. Paranoia, and impulsive behavior. Physical signs are loss of weight, track lines (although this isn’t always the case anymore, heroin can now be smoked and snorted), among many more.
Other ways to help.. Don’t become part of the problem. If a family member or friend is using, don’t sit and talk behind their backs and contribute to the rumors already being spread about them. Help them. Remind them you are there repeatedly. Please don’t confuse this with enabling them. Don’t give them money. Don’t pretend they aren’t using. If they are willing to seek help, get them help immediately. Make them aware you know what is going on and that you are there when they are ready for help. Because in most cases, forced treatment is not an option. And friends, there will be times you want to give up. They will hurt you. They will steal and lie from you but, you have to keep reminding yourself that this is the drug. Not them.
One of the best things a friend of mine did for her brother who was addicted to heroin was to refuse to bail him out of jail when he was caught using while on probation. It was in jail that he actually started to really get clean. And he knew he never wanted to go back. It was one of the hardest decisions she ever had to make. I still remember her asking me what she should do and I told her: “What if he was in the hospital sick and dying, and they could help him, but he wanted to leave. But the decision was up to you. Would you let him leave?” And her answer was no. Her brother was no different really. He was sick. He needed help. And if he didn’t get it he was going to die. She let him stay in jail, and he got clean, and was eventually released where he then chose to seek more treatment to remain clean. He has been clean almost a year. This came down to choices. Choices made by my friend. And choices made by her brother. Together, not apart, they were able to get him clean.
We can help.
We can be part of the solution.
Is it a 100% guarantee? Unfortunately not. But it’s 100% Better than sitting back and ignoring it all together. Talk with your kids. Show them the effects of this drug. Have open dialog about the risks and both the short and long term results. Inform them, don’t ignore them.
We all probably know someone at this point who is suffering this illness. It’s time we reach out in any way we can (without enabling them) and we take a stand. Not just for the people affected now, but for our children who could be effected in the future.
I’ll end with this, I once asked my dad what he did when we were growing up and he worried about our choices (besides being actively involved in our lives) and he said “I spent many nights in prayer.” I truly believe that is crucial too. ❤️
* I understand there are many different drugs out there contributing to the overall drug related deaths in America. But for this article I have chosen to concentrate on Heroin alone due to the alarming increase of heroin related deaths in the past year.