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HEROIN: No Longer Somewhere Else

The first of an ongoing series on an epidemic that once besieged the cities, but now deeply affects the streets of suburban and rural New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and throughout America

At Stop & Shop, you only worry about the restroom when you need it. It's like the rest of place: Clean. No mold; no residual smell. Something the Point Pleasant Boro, N.J. store is known for. Even Proud of.

The only "graffiti" is on the light switch; it says "on" and "off." The worst things that happen are a leaky diaper, a locked door, or a line.

On Jan. 10, something very bad, and once unthinkable happened here. Something that's become too common, a symbol of a crisis that's plaguing Ocean County, N.J., plaguing New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the whole country.

Something that doesn't happen in a place so clean.

On Jan. 10, a 42-year-old was found dead here, at the only "big store" Point Pleasant Boro has. The Jersey City man overdosed on heroin, carrying five additional wax folds stamped “Bud Light” in red on his person. 

It was yet another sad case, another horrific way of validating that heroin is no longer the scourge of the streets, the back alleys and the abandoned buildings of the cities.

No longer the scariest drug, heroin is now among the easiest to get. It's among the most accessible; especially the high.

And as it becomes cheaper and more available, it's no longer the problem that's happening "elsewhere." Small towns, big cites, even rural farmland areas - they're all coming to grips with the sad fact that the number of cases in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and elsewhere has skyrocketed in just a matter of a few years.

In just a few years, the drug's purity has jumped from 12 to 65 percent, according to Al Della Fave, spokesman for the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office. With it, overdose deaths in Ocean County, N.J., home to Point Pleasant and other seashore communities battling it all, doubled from 53 in 2012 to 112 in 2013.

In the past three years, addicts who could no longer pay $25 a pill for drugs like oxycodone switched to the much cheaper heroin, often sold for $5 per dose in Newark and Paterson, according to NJ.com.

The number of people between the ages 18 to 25 who sought treatment for opiate addiction jumped by 12 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to NJ.com. There were 368 deaths heroin-related deaths in New Jersey in 2011, up from 287 in 2010, according to the state medical examiner’s office.

In the last two weeks of January, 22 people died in six counties in Pennsylvania from what authorities believe were tainted-heroin overdoses.

Young men and women are dying, but so are older parents with small children. People, like the man at Stop & Shop, his body aged way beyond his 42 years, have now become the face of the epidemic.

People who show none of the obvious signs are getting arrested. Some of them work desk jobs for big companies. Or they labor in the back kitchens of restaurants, and they're getting caught, sent off to rehab yet again.

Many of them were the kind of people once repulsed by the thought of sticking needles in their arms. In the autopsies that have become all too common, the medical examiners find needle tracks covering the arms, legs and feet of their lifeless bodies.

"It just takes over the body to the point that the addiction is hard, almost impossible to stop," said Della Fave.

A Problem for every town

It's in Point Pleasant Boro, mostly known by many as the place to stop for ice cream and gas on the way back from the beach. In 2012, 148 abuse cases were reported here. Deals, possession cases happen on the streets of this town; a Brick woman was recently arrested for allegedly having a hypodermic syringe and drugs on Leighton Avenue.

In 2012, Point Boro placed number 36 on list of New Jersey 565 towns with the most reported incidents of heroin and opiate treatment, according to a Patch report.

It's in Allendale, N.J., where a 22-year-old man was found unresponsive in his bedroom on Jan. 4. He was pronounced dead at the scene; investigators later determined he died from a heroin overdose. Two Paterson men who allegedly sold the lethal dose of heroin were later arrested on second-degree manslaughter charges.

It's in Lacey Township, N.J., where a 19-year-old, back in October, was arrested after he allegedly injected heroin while in the restroom of the local county library. The Lacey man was charged with possession of heroin and possession of a hypodermic syringe.

It's in Hatboro, Pa., where a 27-year-old woman faces 40 years behind bars if convicted in the heroin-induced death of her boyfriend, authorities said. 

In too many towns, case after case, arrest after arrest has some connection - however remotely - to heroin. In documents released to the media this week that detail Monmouth County's indictments, roughly half of the drug charges involve heroin.

But the authorities who are arresting those addicted to it, or pushing it, know that incarceration only goes so far. For every one who's arrested, another's waiting in the wings, ready to carry on one of the few industries thriving in an economy that's not.

"We call it, 'Chasing the rabbit,' " Della Fave said.

A week ago, Ocean County had its 13 overdose death of the year. Last year's number of 112 - once seemed implausible, and unbelievable - could very well be topped in 2014.

What's worse, however, is what's behind the numbers: Broken families, eulogizing and then burying another loved one whom, they thought, never would do such a thing. Or they had it licked.

In some cases, the family knew nothing about what was going on until the final, fatal moment.

"He was 90 days clean," said one Ocean County resident, just a day after she recently helped lay her nephew to rest. "That's what makes it more f--d up. He had so much to live for."

Her nephew was a parent, she said. Nothing ever showed on the outside, until November, when he was caught. "Everything was just fantastic," she said.

Through the rehab stint, the man, whose name is being withheld at the family's request, did his job. Played with the kids.

Then came the 90th day. A day that should have been celebrated. Three months clean.

On that day, he was found dead.

At his funeral, there were 250 cars. Lines were out the door at the wake. So much to live for, people say.

"I don't know where it failed," she said. "I'd see him outside playing with the children with the idea that it was going well."

A competitive industry that keeps growing

How it happens no longer matters. Indeed, the old stereotype of junkies in alleys, emblematic of urban decay, is an image that ended with the 1970s.

It's also a drug that's not just injected anymore. Snorting it was never enough, because it was never pure enough. For many, however, now it is.

The industry has become very competitive, Della Fave said. The drug lords of Colombia, Afghanistan and elsewhere have upped the purity as heroin has become more available, and its price has plummeted. 

"The cartels are making it purer because they're trying to be more competitive," he said.

So many will go to any depths to use it. To make a little more money so they can buy it, they'll sell it.

In February, a trio of Cinnaminson, N.J. residents already charged in a string of robberies were charged with armed robbery and conspiracy in the holdup of the Town Liquor Store on Route 130 in nearby Florence. An investigation revealed the defendants used proceeds from the robberies to buy heroin in Camden, officials said.

In the Stop & Shop incident, the heroin was laced with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opiate that's as lethal as it is potent. The drug is up to five times more potent than heroin, and its use is suspected in recent overdose cases not just in New Jersey, but also in Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, North Carolina elsewhere.

Heroin laced with fentanyl is stronger, cheaper and more desirable on the street, Della Fave says. A user who overdoses can quickly lose consciousness, and stop breathing.

But they use it anyway, because it's the next great high, the next way to raise the stakes when they can''t be raised anymore.

"Once a person injects heroin into themselves, from there on in, they're no longer making rational decisions," Della Fave said.

Addressing the problem, and the needs

There are towns that still resist any connection to the drug, even as many of their own continue to struggle with addiction.

Indeed, Patch's posting of 45 New Jersey communities with the most cases of heroin and opiate abuse and treatment prompted some public officials and police officers to protest, saying the state's data is flawed, or easily misconstrued.

Even some of those arrested in recent months have emailed, or called, demanding that their pictures be taken down. The other guy had the heroin, they'll say. They were just driving the car.

Others say they not only acknowledge what's become, in their words, an "epidemic;" they've "attacked" it.

Like in Ocean County, where Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato has been dealing with it since day one, Della Fave says. In just his third week, back in April 2013, his office dealt with nine heroin deaths in eight days.

In Ocean County, Della Fave said every police chief has signed on to Coronato's attempts to deal with it. In heroin-abuse forums in Lacey and Manahawkin, the seats were filled, forcing just as many to stand. 

In every heroin-related death, a homicide detective from the prosecutor's office is called in to respond.

Having a clean image is important, Della Fave says. But nobody's clean anymore.

"It's here, and it's alive," he said.
Deep Breaths February 27, 2014 at 01:53 PM
Heroin has always been a problem but is becoming more of a problem in middle-class communities (people with health coverage) as opiate-containing painkillers like OxyContin are used for treatment of pain. When the prescription runs out, some people find themselves looking for a way to get that same feeling, and the obvious way is to use Heroin.
Betsy Metz February 27, 2014 at 02:39 PM
With very few exceptions, the ignorance reflected by many of the comments here is incredibly depressing. Lynne Wahl, I am so sorry for your loss, your son. But for the grace of god or whatever higher power might be out there, go I. Or any other parent out there. One of my four sons, in his early 20's, has had eight friends die, all substance-abuse related, some heroin, some intentional suicide, some unintentional.. but every single one of them was also taking a Big Pharma drug.. The heroin problem by the way IS worse now than it was before we intervened in Afghanistan and took control away from the Taliban.. as bad as they were, they at least had this under control.. Google the history of the CIA gun & drug running, google Michael Ruppert, a former LA detective who exposed much of this, testified before Congress, then it went nowhere.. The press is now completely owned & controlled, so it's actually nice to see when a local media outlet like the Patch reports some truth.. And hese problems are all interconnected.. Just follow the money, always. Cui bono. Betsy Metz Devon, PA
John Barone February 27, 2014 at 03:05 PM
This is simply the culling of the herd Only the fittest survive . If you legalize all drugs there will not be tainted Drugs sold if the licensed location
Jessi Cushing February 27, 2014 at 03:12 PM
"One way to get the addict off drugs is put him in jail for a couple of years, while keeping the jails drug free. If he re-offends, return him to jail or 10 years, then 20 years....." Wow. Not sure where you are from or where you get your info (probably Dateline or 20/20...), but A) how would you propose to keep the jails "drug-free"?? and B) Where the heck are you going to put ALLLLLLLLLL of those un-recovered addicts who keep getting out and re-offending??? Surely not your house, right? Get with the program...
james wood February 27, 2014 at 04:24 PM
Drug War Statistics Did you know.... Amount spent annually in the U.S. on the war on drugs: More than $51,000,000,000 Number of people arrested in 2012 in the U.S. on nonviolent drug charges: 1.55 million Number of people arrested for a marijuana law violation in 2012: 749,825 Number of those charged with marijuana law violations who were arrested for possession only: 658,231 (88 percent) Number of Americans incarcerated in 2012 in federal, state and local prisons and jails: 2,228,400 or 1 in every 108 adults, the highest incarceration rate in the world Proportion of people incarcerated for a drug offense in state prison that are black or Hispanic, although these groups use and sell drugs at similar rates as whites: 61 percent Number of states that allow the medical use of marijuana: 20 + District of Columbia Estimated annual revenue that California would raise if it taxed and regulated the sale of marijuana: $1,400,000,000 Number of people killed in Mexico's drug war since 2006: 70,000+ Number of students who have lost federal financial aid eligibility because of a drug conviction: 200,000+ Number of people in the U.S. that died from a drug overdose in 2010: 38,329 Tax revenue that drug legalization would yield annually, if currently-illegal drugs were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco: $46.7 billion The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that syringe access programs lower HIV incidence among people who inject drugs by: 80 percent One-third of all AIDS cases in the U.S. have been caused by syringe sharing: 354,000 people U.S. federal government support for syringe access programs: $0.00, thanks to a federal ban reinstated by Congress in 2011 that prohibits any federal assistance for them
joan February 27, 2014 at 05:01 PM
REALLY? you just realized this. This has been the drug of choice for EASTON ATHLETES FOR OVER A DECADE.
Alex February 27, 2014 at 05:03 PM
My son is a recovering addict and I am thankful every day that he had the strength to do the hard work to be where he is today...ALIVE. There were many days and nights that I was sure I would get the call that he had overdosed and died. He is 5 years clean and practices his 12 step program everyday. I share this so those with no hope today know that there is a way out but the addict has to be ready. Blessings to all who are dealing with this insipid disease.
james wood February 27, 2014 at 05:16 PM
Alex.... you are blessed as most do not make it . I went to a funeral yesterday for a young man that overdosed and did not make it ! It is all over our country and all over Cranberry Township !
Kaos8 February 27, 2014 at 06:16 PM
I see many points here being made, and everyone is entitled to their own oppinion- they are like @*$holes, everyone has one. However, I must put my 2 cents in- I have had a family member die, due to drugs in the 1980's- it was devistating (in a rural community- so not new to the rurals)- this family member had been in rehab and in jail and had gotten all the help he could possibly get, and still chose the "high".. Some people can't kick it or don't want to. As much as I miss my family member everyday- I think of the good times, and unfortunately the last couple of years he was alive- were an absolute nightmare, for everyone who loved him and I really feel that if he could not kick it, and this was how it was going to be, I cannot imagine how any of us would have made it through the last 30yrs and still been sane. He robbed family members, he was in and out of jail due to violence and drinkng/drugs. This is what happens. I realize him passing may have been a blessing for us and him. That being said, I have 2 houses that were robbed, by different people in a matter of 3 months (2 different Lehigh Valley Counties). Both robberies were for Heroin money. The first case I have heard nothing on for restitution- as they hit a ton of houses and stole all the copper out of them. The 2nd case, I got the chance for restitution, however, they were in and out of prison- before the DA even got my paperwork to me about being notified of all imprisonment and court dates. My paperwork indicated they would be doing about 6mo and my paperwork was sent out promptly. Sickening!
Kaos8 February 27, 2014 at 06:27 PM
So, another thought, I watched the movie "SNITCH" with the Rock. Supposed to be a true story about the US Drug Wars and the laws on drugs. I can tell you, that this does not happen, at least in my area. I worked with criminal law in law firms in the past, and also with law enforcement in the past- I have seen both sides of these cases and I have never seen this happen, although, it would have gotten rid of a ton of the frequent flyers we dealt with. I know the "housing" would be a problem, however, it would scare the crap out of a lot of this younger upper/middle class generation selling this stuff. It may just slow down these sales- if the kids or young adults were terrified to be tossed in the klink for many years- not weeks or months. I wish this would actually happen. I have a distant relative that was caught up in some sort of federal drug raid (national tv and partly in the Lehigh Valley)..His picture and address was put in the paper and all over the internet. You know what- he did no time that I am aware of.. personally, I think he should have. There is no excuse, and jail time maybe what these people need. And people need to work on getting the drugs out of the prisons. We have a lot to do America- lets stop passing the buck and get on with it. Either jail them or let them kill themselves off- if they are not serious about getting help. Again, just my 2 cents.
Charlestown February 27, 2014 at 06:44 PM
C'mon Patch. This is neither news nor local.
cam February 27, 2014 at 08:09 PM
Heroin is an epidemic and has been for a very long time. many of the statistics show that many addicts start out with the prescription pain killers, so when will some accountability be put on these doctors to stop so freely prescribing these pills! Most all articles will note that addicts turn to Heroin because they are much cheaper than pills. What they don't report is that an addict requires more and more to meet their needs and soon becomes a very expensive addiction, resulting in the constant thefts. My son, is an addict, not yet recovered and he will at times use upwards of 300.00 a day. I have always been very judgmental about addicts, as many of you are as well, until I educated myself. It is a horrible, sad and unfortunate disease that no one chose. An addict can not take just one and quit like a non-addict can. You may have smoked a joint, took a pill, or had a snort and was able to walk away from it. An addict who did the same, was not able to walk away from it, they have a disease that makes them want more and their brain allows them to believe that they need it to survive, which is what makes them desperate to have their drug at any risk. Yes, there are meds out there that can help an addict to recovery and what is the problem with that? Addiction is a disease and other diseases are treated with medications. if taking a non-addictive medication to help an addict reach recovery its absolutely worth it. There is a newer medication that is an opiate blocker and works for 30 days, but of course insurance won't pay for it. They'd rather have the addict go through rehab again and again and again.
bill murphy February 27, 2014 at 09:06 PM
I know the med you speak of and it gets you high amd is abused by addict all the time. Trading one drug for another only enslaves the addict to a new master one with a phd. Only completly abstaining from all mood and mind altering chemicals will free an addict enough so that they can work honestly on the core of the disease themselves.
spendurown$ February 28, 2014 at 12:32 AM
Jessi Cushing: The idea of long jail time is called an DETERENT. This includes family and security personel from bringing in drugs. I think if we can frish little old ladies when they get on a plane, we can strip search prison visitors. You give drugs to inmates, you get DOUBLE their time!!! Believe it or not, in countries where they cut off your hand for stealing, they have less theft. Really!! Would you take the chance to even try heroin if you knew the penalty was 20 years in prison? Most people wouldn't. As for not enough room.... they have a cure for that, build more prisons. If 10% of society were murders, I doubt we'd say "we can't imprison them all". Well, we'd have to or we'd all be living in fear, for good reason. With enough punishment, and knowing that the "fun" stops at the jailhouse door, we might keep more people from getting started on such devastating drugs. When your doctor's prescription runs out, you are out!! You have a choice whether to decide to get your own on the street (and go to jail) or just stop. Pain pills in the presence of PAIN, is not addictive, there is no HIGH. Narcotic pain pills should never be given for minor pain, that should be aspirin and Tylenol. But, don't act like doctors shouldn't give pain medicine to people who are really in pain. I cannot think of anything more cruel to do solely because some people cannot handle their prescriptions properly. Morphine is a miracle of medicine, and has helped many a soldier fighting for our country, without leaving everyone who touches it an "addict".
Roger February 28, 2014 at 09:22 AM
Yes, Patch has hit the skids with regard to local issues. But, the terror of heroin knows no boundaries. I've read or scanned the comments here. What I see is a typical profile of discussions on this subject. Most comments focus on externals, such as legal controls, jail, treatment, etc. I think the real question is "Why to use at the start?" Everybody that has a drug problem started sometime, in some circumstances, and made a choice. Some comments above attribute heroin use to a disease. Sorry, I have to disagree with that assessment. Recreational drug use is a choice, not a disease. Some people may be more disposed to addiction after first using, but a disease is does not characterize the first use of recreational drugs. I think I found only one reference in all the comments to spiritual matters. This returns to the "why" question. It seems to me those who take the first snort, the first shot, the first pills, are attempting to escape life. Why is this? I suggest the person in question is getting chewed up with anxiety, anger, bitterness, and other negative attitudes. The heart of this matter is lack of peace, yes, lack of peace. The lack of peace is driving the person to seek an escape path, and by altering the mind. The escape is only temporary, and needs to be refueled at another time. As a society in recent decades, we have sought to be more and more independent. We no longer know what we believe and why. We loose our anchor to a foundation, and are left wandering. The lack of satisfaction in the wandering leads to the anxiety, anger, bitterness, and the other negative attitudes discussed above. The cycle begins, no peace, seek an escape, get temporary relief, live life again in the same way, seek an escape, get temporary relief, and the cycle continues. Soon, the person is addicted. My suggestion is to start at the core problem, seeking satisfacation in who we are, whose we are, leading to peace with ourselves. The trend of setting aside the spiritual side of life because it is deemed not important is a recipie for disaster. Every person has a phyical and spirtual component. Setting aside the spiritual component is denying the realitly of the life we have been given. Seeking legal means to curb recreational drug use is a failed strategy, as many have suggested above. As parents, I see way more interest in having their child hit a ball, putting the ball into the hoop, running with the ball faster than somebody else, dancing on their toes, etc, than to lead their child in spiritual matters. "I will just let them decide when they get older ...." clearly does not work. And, for many, this perspective is a definite dereliction of parenting duty. Our high schools are populated with many who do not understand the meaning and purpose of life, and are left to natural desires, which lead to inappropriate paths.
Jessi Cushing February 28, 2014 at 10:12 AM
Roger, I do agree. It is more important (and cost-effective overall, for those who worry about money and time) to use preventive measures than try to mop up the problem later, usually over and over again. One half-hour of attention to each of your kids when they are in the impressionable younger years will go much farther than an intervention once they went looking for that attention and found "alternative mental states" to work just as well. The term "spirituality" is not the same thing as "religiosity" for those who do not know the difference...no one is saying to indoctrinate your child with some deist theory; one of the easier, softer ways to promote spirituality is to enjoy nature, plain and simple. As for building new prisons, I do not see money being allotted for this. The "War on Drugs" is over, USA! Wake up, you LOST! Find a new strategy. And the strip-searching people and all that is just a ridiculous, arcane idea. Apparently, it is not known how drugs and alcohol get INTO the prisons in the first place...I will not elaborate so as not to give anyone ideas, I'll just leave it that people can be extremely creative and inventive. The uninitiated are just pleasantly ignorant because they have never been in such a situation. It is easy to sit in your La-Z-boy in your warm house and point fingers, but there is a whole wide sub-culture out there that lives in YOUR neighborhood of which you do not even have an inkling.
Osama Santana February 28, 2014 at 09:17 PM
Donald smith yes there iz self inflicting problems in black communities but they r of the effects of your peoples opression on minee
Osama Santana February 28, 2014 at 09:21 PM
And ur lost if u try to say that all the problems r on us I think u forget it was regan who put crack and other drugs in black neighborshoods and im not sure were u got al sharpin from all off this and since u wanna pull numbers out ur ass how bout how 55 percent of thos black fathers r falsely imprisoned
Osama Santana February 28, 2014 at 09:26 PM
And donald smith its people like u who r prolli live in the fantasy that theres absolutely zero racism in the us. ....just know WE built this country
The Truth March 01, 2014 at 11:38 AM
"...just know WE built this country"...please stop watching MSNBC and Al Sharpton so much, they're polluting your mind...
Donald Smith March 01, 2014 at 12:44 PM
Osama I wish you the best life has to offer. I have been to 2 funerals in as many years for young people who died from heroin. These young people had tons of talent but they couldn't escape the claws of addiction and to me that's sad. Sad for their families, friends and the life they could of had. I too had these claws in me at one time in my earlier life but the grace of God reached and saved me from my addiction and has continued to help me through my drug and alcohol free life. Peace.
Tom C March 02, 2014 at 05:57 PM
Clearly there needs to be more education on addiction as some of the comments on this site are purely ignorant. I feel for those that have lost loved ones to the disease. I have a degree from the top business school in the world and have been fortunate to have achieved what most would consider as significant business success; I have strong "will power" and focus to achieve results. I am also a recovered addict thanks to my Higher Power and the program of AA. My daughter, unfortunately, has the same disease. She is an intelligent, big hearted, beautiful young lady who was doing extremely well in life until the disease of addiction grabbed her. In a matter of months she dropped out of college and had an entirely new group of friends. She went from the "gifted program" and sleeping in her bedroom on the mainline to having to wake up in a bedroom with three other girls, one that had died during the night from an OD. She survived her own OD, thank God. I did not know the other girl's family but I cried and prayed for them as I knew it could have been my family. That young lady did not deserve to die as one sorely ignorant individual on this site has suggested. "Normal" people drink a beer or a glass of wine--or maybe even smoke a joint--and then go about their business. For the addict one drink is too much and a dozen isn't enough. Nobody asks for this disease nor do they have weak will power or a lack of control. if you went to an AA or NA meeting you might find your doctor, attorney, politician, business leader or rabbi. You will also find some lost soles that have not achieved what is considered worldly success: It is a normal cross section of society. Addiction doesn't discriminate any more than cancer does. Yet people simply don't view a person suffering from addiction the same way they view a person afflicted with cancer. The drug is simply a manifestation of the disease. Whether it is a bottle, a snort, or a needle the disease of addiction is the issue. My unscientific take on heroin is that the pharma companies flooded our county with pain killers and those pills became a mainstream drug. Again, "normal" people might have tried one or two and enjoyed the high but then went about their lives; maybe they had some left over from a script but took them long after they needed them to "relax" or simply to enjoy a short period of disconnection from the rat race. The addict tried one or two and craved a dozen....then another dozen...then the pills became too expensive they found a cheaper high with heroin. If you want to help the addict then pray that they find a program of recovery for their disease. Seek to understand before you criticize them. They don't want addiction any more than you want to deal with addiction. They aren't weak minded or lack intelligence--they are simply struggling with a misunderstood disease. I pray for the suffering addict every day as I practice my own program of recovery.
Roger March 02, 2014 at 07:34 PM
@TomC, I am sorry to hear of your troubles, and those of your family. We need to hear more about this disease of which you speak. Dictionary for disease: a disordered or incorrectly functioning organ, part, structure, or system of the body resulting from the effect of genetic or developmental errors, infection, poisons, nutritional deficiency or imbalance, toxicity, or unfavorable environmental factors; illness; sickness; ailment. I see nothing in here that fits with your definition of addiction. I would have to be classed as one of the ignorant ones reference in your post. This why I ask for a reconciliation of your position, and that of the understanding of most folks, as per the dictionary. If addiction is a disease, then when does one contract this disease? How does one catch the disease? What factors come into alignment that cause this disease? Somewhere along the line, an addict takes the first step. If this step is not taken, is the disease still present? If the step is taken, is this the first sign of the disease? If this to be the case, why would anybody take a step into a disease, one for which there is no remedy, only control (as per your post)? There are lots of missing pieces. We wish to understand, so that we can learn about this disease, and what steps are necessary to avoid it. Thank you.
Tom C March 02, 2014 at 08:15 PM
@Roger. Maybe this will help Public Policy Statement: Definition of Addiction Short Definition of Addiction: Addiction is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors. Addiction is characterized by inability to consistently abstain, impairment in behavioral control, craving, diminished recognition of significant problems with one’s behaviors and interpersonal relationships, and a dysfunctional emotional response. Like other chronic diseases, addiction often involves cycles of relapse and remission. Without treatment or engagement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can result in disability or premature death. If you make the decision to smoke cigarettes and develop lung cancer do you have a disease or because you made the decision to inhale that substance that every doctor in the US would tell you causes severe harm do you not have a disease because "you took the first step." If your diet brings on autoimmune deficiency do you not have a disease because you chose your diet? If you are overweigh and inactive and develop diabetes do you not have a disease because you decided to eat 10,000 calories a day and sit on your rump rather than having a sound diet and spending 30 minutes a day in the gym? Is there an issue with drinking a beer or consuming a glass of wine? The non-addict simply finishes the bottle or glass and goes on with their life. The addict continues to progress in their disease. So the first act is a legal event that sets off a series of ugly events in those that have the disease. People don't start with heroin, that is the end of the line with the disease; they usually start innocently with a completely legal substance thinking they are in the majority, they are totally normal. You don't really want to understand addiction as you could have spent less time researching it on the internet than it took you to write your specious argument. Lord, make me a channel of your peace, that where there is hatred I may bring love, that where there is wrong I may bring the spirit of forgiveness; that where there is discord I may bring harmony; that where there is error I may bring truth...you can read the rest of the St Francis prayer if you care to. It will take about five seconds to find on line. You were simply the first to respond to my post so I am replying to your post for you and those to come, but that will be the end of my "discussion" with those that simply want to characterize the addict as a dredge of society. NOBODY wants to be an addict--nobody. My goal was simply to provide a more balanced perspective on addiction than some of the extremist were providing.
Kaos8 March 03, 2014 at 09:46 AM
Well after reading many of these comments and also having my own family experience and professional work experience with Drug Abuse. I did some more research. One of the best websites I found is: http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/understanding-drug-abuse-addiction - In this article it does explain that there are many factors to Drug Abuse and it is a disease. Here is an excerpt, since many arguements have arisen out of this article, in the above comments, about race, family, religion, etc... Here are some facts from that article: "No single factor can predict whether a person will become addicted to drugs. Risk for addiction is influenced by a combination of factors that include individual biology, social environment, and age or stage of development. The more risk factors an individual has, the greater the chance that taking drugs can lead to addiction. For example: BIOLOGY. The genes that people are born with—in combination with environmental influences—account for about half of their addiction vulnerability. Additionally, gender, ethnicity, and the presence of other mental disorders may influence risk for drug abuse and addiction. ENVIRONMENT. A person’s environment includes many different influences, from family and friends to socioeconomic status and quality of life in general. Factors such as peer pressure, physical and sexual abuse, stress, and quality of parenting can greatly influence the occurrence of drug abuse and the escalation to addiction in a person’s life. DEVELOPMENT. Genetic and environmental factors interact with critical developmental stages in a person’s life to affect addiction vulnerability. Although taking drugs at any age can lead to addiction, the earlier that drug use begins, the more likely it will progress to more serious abuse, which poses a special challenge to adolescents. Because areas in their brains that govern decision making, judgment, and self-control are still developing, adolescents may be especially prone to risk-taking behaviors, including trying drugs of abuse." One of the DEFINITIONs OF DRUG ADDICTION IS: "Addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the addicted individual and to those around him or her. Although the initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, the brain changes that occur over time challenge an addicted person’s self control and hamper his or her ability to resist intense impulses to take drugs." - also take from the above website. SO, it is usually a choice to go down this road. It is also a choice to get help, no matter how hard it is to do so. One must have a support group obviously, but one of the big factors is the addict. If the addict refuses help and even after treatments relapses, what can you do, but sit by and watch. Many people don't have the money to do treatments. Maybe the fear of lengthy jail time at the start of these addictive lives would hinder the large amount of addicts we have today. Another "Tough Love" option- turn them in to the police, whenever you catch them using. Find their stash and turn over to Police. Do whatever you can to stop the use. The addict will hate you for a while, but in 10-30yrs, when they are still alive and drug free, they will get over it.
Kaos8 March 03, 2014 at 09:56 AM
Since I see it nowhere else in this article or comments; here is some places to seek help, if you or a loved one needs help with Drug Abuse: This was taken from www.DrugAbuse.gov website. To find a publicly funded treatment center in your State, please call 1-800-662-HELP or visit www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov. **** for those that don't know who SAMHSA is: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) - US Dept of Health and Human Services ****
Roger March 03, 2014 at 10:18 AM
@tomc, thanks for your response. I realize you are "selling," but I am doubting that many out here are "buying." You are entitled. [p] I don't know what part of your post is quoting from the story, and what is your own words. Paragraphing in Patch is non-existent and makes these posts difficult to understand sometimes. [p] Nevertheless, there is no convincing argument about the disease idea. The missing part of the explantion is the first step. You can talk much about the after effects, but addiction starts with the first step. Your own post owns up to this dilema. [p] I remain puzzled about the first step -- why to use at all? What are the elements at work in the first step? This seems to be elusive, because nobody wishes to address. We hear the talk over and over about education. Education tells people the hazards of using mind-altering substances, but yet the rate of growth continues an upward spiral. The disease idea is unable to reconcile the differences between the desire to use, and the hazards that are well-known. Education is used as a stop-gap measure, believing that it will somehow solve the problem. [p] Addictions can take many forms, use of mind-altering substances is only one of them. How is sex addiction a disease? How is career addiction a disease? How is relationships a disease? All can be addictive and controlling -- no difference than use of drugs. [p] The disease idea is a relatively new characterization. I suggest that this nomenclature came into vogue so that certain remedial programs could be engaged. In other words, money started flowing after the disease idea was used, money that was not available before. [p] Also, the notion of disease is used to soften the impact. It helps relieve the stigma of the behavior, believing that the reasons are outside an individual. It is all part of "not my problem" syndrome that has pervaded our society in the last 20 years. High profile celebrity figures, such as Oprah, helped promote these ideas. "Everybody is a victim, we just need to find out who is responsible to impose the victim status." [p] Excessive drug use has become a major problem in our society. Lives are lost, others lives are disrupted, productivity is lost, and ( ... ). While it is easy to point fingers at foreign entities able to cause great disruption, the drug use problem slowly, but methodically is helping us to implode from within. Those outside must gloat about the US facination of pleasure, sports, entertainment, and similar, none of which bring satisfaction to our citizens. Seeking temporary satisfaction through other paths, unwilling to address the spiritual side of our being, and attempts to find peace in the wrong places are taking us down a disasterous path. Yes, as pointed our here, there are places to seek remedial help, but these are all after-the-fact. These are passive approaches, when the wrong path already has been chosen. Why are so many resistant to the proactive path?
Tom C March 03, 2014 at 12:10 PM
@Roger you continue to ignore the evidence of a disease. I posted the definition of addiction as did @Kaos8, from a .gov website. Does your own medical training provide a different opinion or is it your lack of willingness to open your mind to real research? I spoke about starting in the addiction--with legal substances such as beer and wine--and I'll give you one more example; if you had a severe peanut allergy and didn't know it and as a five year old child ate a PBJ sandwich and died were you a fool or did you not know you had that allergy until you first consumed peanuts? With that the "starting" horse has been beaten to death and if you don't understand I'd suggest you pray for the understanding you lack. The book "Alcoholics Anonymous" was written in 1939 and in that book there is a section called "the doctor's opinion" and alcoholism is clearly defined at that point in time--75 years ago--as a disease. So I don't know your age but for me 75 years is not "relatively new," as I wasn't even a glimmer in somebody's eye at that point. You have your opinion and you clearly are not going to allow that opinion to be changed by medical terminology or research. I don't need to "sell" anything as I have no financial stake in the game and those that really care about addiction, for whatever reason, can get educated far better than on this discussion board. @Kaos8 provided some websites to both learn and to seek help if required. AA, NA, AlAnon, and NarAnon are all free...they'll even give you a cup of coffee to enjoy while you're getting educated. I wish you the best in your journey
Kaos8 March 03, 2014 at 01:01 PM
@ Tom C - Thanks for the Kudos. I do see the frustration many have. Me personally have been in 2 of the 3 situations- when it comes to addicts. I have a close family member that died due to drugs (while not from an overdose but while being greatly impaired due to drugs in a motor vehicle accident/heavy machinery). The 2nd part being robbed 2x (1 of them being at great expense out of pocket- other was a camper battery (under $100)) all for heroin money. So, I can see the frustration many parties on this forum have. I also have had experience working w/ law enforcement- and anyone in that field will tell you it is frustrating and dangerous when you are dealing with someone on drugs, many of them frequent flyers. SO the impact is great on soo may people, who may not even know these addicts. Everyone is going to have a different opinion, depending on how an addict has affected their life. Some are out money/valuables, etc- from robberies. Others have a family member who may be an addict. Then there are service people (Police/EMS/Fire/Doctors/Nurses, etc) who see these people at their ups and down and have to help or deal with them. So no matter what facts are put on this message forum- people are going to have their own experience to draw their opinions from. No one should have to pay for someone else's mistakes (monetary or figuratively)... So, yes there is animosity, even on my stance, being robbed for drug money- money I will never get back and had to pay out of my own pocket- for a drug addict, I don't even know. None of their family members came forward to pay their debt.. And as far as I know the one set of robberies- got about $280k in stealing copper out of many houses. No restitution- was told it would be like getting "blood from a stone".. So, I can see the anger many people have... The monetary statistic -per the US Gov't, is sickening how much money is stolen and/or used for purchase of said substances in the United States every year by Substance Ubusers.. As a family member/loved one of an Addict- you are never going to make everyone believe it is just a disease - until money is taken out of the picture. So pretty much, unless you are going to "pay" for your loved one's mistakes- you are never going to change everyone's mind. Unfortunately, as is the way of the USA. There is no easy way out of this drug nightmare in the US. *****My congrats to anyone out there who is trying to better themselves out of Addiction, it is a long and very uphill, forever, battle. I hope you win.**** This was my 5 cents worth, and now I am done on the topic.
Roger March 04, 2014 at 01:45 PM
There is nothing in these posts to advance the cause of addiction being a disease. Citing government reports does not work. It is the government that wants to fund causes for disease. They are the ones who recently classified addiction as a disease, so that government money would flow toward these projects, as if to help. The government reports clearly have a "dog in the fight." Having somebody call it a disease 75 years ago means little, because it had no support, until the government wanted to step into the picture. [p] I see the question of "first step" remains unanswered with the disease explanation. I see the addictions other than drugs remains without comment - how to call a sex addiction a disease. [p] None of my concerns are to minimize the horrendous impact drugs has upon a family, and society as a whole. As commented earler, drug addiction has become a scourge across our land. [p] Which raises the next question: If addiction is a disease, then why has it spread? This article would never have been written, except to point out how addiction has spread to areas outside the urban community. Since this be the case, why did the disease spread from one community to another? What factors were at work to cause the disease to cross geographical boundaries with such abandon? [p] I continue to wonder why so much talk about remedial practices for the addict, and virtually nothing about prevention. Yes, I've heard the "education" stories. But, what are they about? Their focus is on the physical effects, and what happens to the addict. Does this help? Perhaps in some small way, but even those impacted would agree that education was ineffective, at least the kind of education being espoused. Why is there so little addressed to the root core of the problem, to prevent "first step?" Why are people so afraid to go here? [p] The last post speaks of those "who is trying to better themselves." This statement is revealing. It tells us that some remain convinced they can do life on their own, attempting to better themselves. Sorry, it is not going to happen. It has not in the past, no reason to think it will work now, or in the future.

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