One of the areas that seems to get muddy when it comes to substance abuse is personal responsibility. I mean, we’ve all heard, “I didn’t know what I was doing, I was drunk!” While there’s definite legitimacy to that statement, doesn’t there need to be a point where we call bullshit?
Tricked into Heroin
It’s concepts like this that occur to me when I read headlines like, “Oprah Prime Explores How Teens Are Getting Tricked Into Using Heroin,” a piece in HuffPo reporting on an episode of Oprah Prime where she and Russell Brand discuss just that; kids getting “tricked” into getting addicted to heroin. I expected to learn about an epidemic of heroin-laced Girl Scout cookies or a batch of Cheetos that were contaminated with opiates. Instead, the article just talks about high school and college students who thought they were buying a bag of “crushed painkillers” or merely getting “involved with cocaine” and before they knew it, were hooked on the h and couldn’t stop. One of the kids actually overdosed and died.
Now here’s the thing; I have a lot of compassion for addicts; I am one for Christ sake, so of course I find it very sad to hear about a 20-year-old who got hooked on heroin and lost his life. But the problem here isn’t that these kids are being tricked; the problem is that they are simply under-educated or misinformed about drugs. Programs like D.A.R.E do their best I am sure but you can’t force anyone to listen or absorb information. If high school kids today are anything like I was, they put their faith in what their friends are doing.
One of the girls they mention in the article claims to have gotten hooked on heroin in high school because she thought she was doing cocaine. Did I not get the memo about cocaine being safe and non-addictive? The fact is, I know way more cokeheads than junkies (perhaps this is why?) Plus, what human being doesn’t know the difference between coke and heroin? They are on polar opposites sides of the “high” spectrum so this is like Partying 101. The article also talks about a guy who tried heroin accidentally because he thought it was a bag of crushed painkillers. Which means somewhere along the line, he got the impression that snorting painkillers—a broad umbrella that includes some fatal drugs, including OxyContin—is somehow safer or less addictive than snorting heroin. Which, simply put, is just wrong.
On to the Next Drug
I once worked with a girl who had a kidney disorder that led to her getting addicted to Fentanyl, a prescription opiate like OxyContin. Since Fentanyl is highly potent, I imagined it was expensive and highly regulated, making it hard to come by if she was, say, abusing it. And this theory was confirmed when she out-used her prescription and took to the streets to score heroin. She was dead within a year. Because that is what happens when you develop a serious relationship with a drug—you don’t wait around for your preferred form if a comparable substitute is readily available and probably a lot cheaper.
Here’s a sample quote from a now recovering 24-year-old quoted in the story: “I used to trick people into doing heroin…I would tell them it was OxyContin, Vicodin, cocaine—really, anything. Anything less than heroin.” When I read things like that, it seems clear to me that we need to spend less time giving people the opportunity to blame evil drug dealers and shitty friends for their poor decisions and spend a lot more time educating them about the effects of drugs and the importance of taking responsibility for their own choices.
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