Wait, what did she say?  Heroin?

No, I am not having a flashback to 1969. I am not singing Magic Carpet Ride, loudly, to the Doors (well, maybe…) I am talking about Heroin and that makes me think of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Iron Butterfly and wearing bell bottoms. Who’s with me? I was barely a teenager in 1969, but I do remember some things. People were smoking marijuana, dropping LSD and shooting Heroin. People who used Heroin were called Junkies and they were far away from our world in Atlanta, Georgia. I recently read the new Allman Brothers book One Way Out written by Galadrielle Allman. I learned that several Allman Brothers Band members were detoxed from Heroin in 1969. I did not know that.

Well, the world has changed since 1969 and so has Heroin use.

In the past three years, I have seen an increase in clients coming to my office for Heroin use. Most of these people started with pain pills and hop scotched over to Heroin. Prescription opiates are seen as clean drugs. They are prescribed for someone. (It isn’t always YOU, but that seems to be such a small point) Opiate use is cool. And make no mistake; none of my clients have difficulty finding Heroin or pills. Beginners raid their parents or grandparents medicine cabinets for pills. Professionals accompany other people to the doctor and then the drug store. Then they purchase the pills from that friend. Helpful….

But alas, there are problems! The “high” changes and tolerance begins to builds very quickly, within months of first use. Pills are expensive, roughly a dollar per milligram. It is not unusual for a person to eat, snort or shoot 200-300 milligrams of opiates per day. Fairly quickly, the user will suffer physical withdrawal symptoms if they cannot afford to buy or obtain more prescription opiates. Opiate withdrawal is very uncomfortable (not deadly but very uncomfortable). So, the jump to Heroin doesn’t seem as crazy when they are in withdrawal. People can purchase $50 of Heroin which may get them high but will certainly keep them from suffering withdrawal from pills. Hey, it may kill them. While $50 per day isn’t cheap, it sure beats spending $2-300 per day. Every one of my clients who have made this change from pills to Heroin believes that they have miraculously graduated from medical school! They always, say “I’ve got this, Miss Grace. I know exactly what dose that I need to be doing.” Amazing!

So, the stigma of being a junkie is gone. Unfortunately, there is still no room for “oops!” The Heroin users of 2014 do not look like Heroin users of 1969. They can be businessmen. They are children of professional people in our community. They are well educated. They have resources; parents who have or will pay for multiple rehab programs for them. They certainly do not think of themselves as junkies and they really do not appreciate it when I call them junkies. They will have paraphernalia around them. There will be straws or needles.

They get to counseling primarily through two avenues. Many are sent though the court system. They may or may not have ever been busted with Heroin. Some have been busted with DUI or other drug charges. Others are referred by their doctor because they are taking the drug Suboxone (basically the new Methodone).

Why do people use Heroin? Now that is a good question. Basically, I see hundreds of people each year. What I see are people who have made a train wreck of their lives because they are unwilling or afraid to live their lives plain, like the rest of us. They believe that they are incapable of having fun just being thrilled with plain old life. They have to tweak life to squeeze a little bit more out of it, never realizing that there will be a massive payback, emotionally, physically and financially.

Again, the world has changed since 1969 and so has Heroin use. But some things are still the same. Heroin is fairly expensive and available. Heroin use is deadly!! Overdose is rampant. Users accidentally use too much because they don’t know what they are doing! They also mix drugs and alcohol with often catastrophic results.

Heroin use is back.