Part 1 of 3
This fall, seniors in my Current World Problems class were tasked with researching and writing an article on the heroin epidemic in the U.S. and Clallam County. The students at Forks High School care a lot about their community and are frustrated and saddened by the effects of substance abuse in their neighborhoods.
The class was split into research groups on different topics, such as the current epidemic, the history of opiates, treatment options and the sources of the drug. Two students were given the special assignment of writing fictional narratives to portray the personal side of this epidemic.
We had three guest speakers from OPNET, Cedar Grove and Peninsula Behavioral Health. At first, the word “heroin” felt taboo, but as we learned more, the students were able to gain power over the word and confront their strong emotions with knowledge.
Thank you for reading,
Ms. French’s CWP Class
When you first shoot up, you’ll likely want to puke and sit down. The taste throughout your body will explode with nausea and disgust. Your mouth becomes dry and, not before long, all care you had is gone. Soon you’ll try it again, but this time the feeling will cling to you. Like a pet who hasn’t seen you in a while. This is how heroin will stick to you, cling and become part of your everyday routine.
I started using just by experimenting and found that heroin caused a mellow high, unlike any other drug, heroin just made me feel happy. I felt more self aware and more relevant to other people’s lives. Everything around me had meaning, the rain had a purpose and the wind had a place. Nothing was unintentional and everything was where it should be. Heroin didn’t give me a bad crash like everyone said it would. It didn’t make me feel like I was trying to change, instead it was relaxing.
Heroin changed my life in many different ways, but at $160 a day it was not something I could carry on. After I began to run low on money I offered my dealer rides in hopes he would give me a free hit. It didn’t take long before I realized he himself did not have a steady supply. My dealer showed up with three other men one night — he said they knew of a way to score a big stash. All they needed from me was a ride to a rival dealer’s house where they would simply just sneak in at night and take what they wanted then leave. Soon after they had left, I felt how long I hadn’t used, my fingers were tapping the steering wheel and my teeth chattering in the cold. I could tell they were taking long, “Maybe this is the wrong house?” I asked my dealer. He made no sound. I heard four slams on the back of my car to see the three guys standing behind waiting for me to open the trunk. The deal went smoothly and I received my share. Later that day I was able to find my high once again.
This time would be different, I mean I had enough supply to last me for a while. I’ll just start to use less and less, soon I will not use any of it at all! After a week I started to feel the withdrawal symptoms, the same night I had a seizure and I began to feel so nauseous I couldn’t help but puke. As I fell to the ground, I could feel every small texture on the carpet send ripples of pain upward toward my head. My body ached as I just laid there and tried to relax. I puked even more and this time my stomach shot with pain. I choked and gasped for air, turning over, I could finally breathe. My body was fine for the moment so I was able to pull myself onto my couch near my stash. I used the same amount I used to, the feeling hit instantaneous. I walked toward my room and laid in my bed, needle in arm, puke all over my clothes. I just slept. Soon my body won’t be able to handle the heroin, maybe this time I might not wake up.
in the USA
The opioid epidemic is a serious problem in the U.S. It is completely ruining people’s way of living because of how addictive this drug is and how much it alters how somebody acts and the things that they do. It is one of the most addictive drugs out there and is one of the most deadly. Heroin is a real problem in America.
More Americans die from heroin overdoses every year than car and gun fatalities. Heroin-related injuries also are the leading cause of injuries in the U.S. The fact that heroin overdoses and heroin-related injuries surpass car and firearm fatalities is astounding. Almost everybody has a vehicle and drives it on a daily basis. Nearly as many Americans have some sort of firearm in their house whether to protect themselves or for the use of putting food on the table. Not everybody is shooting up heroin. A report found 46,471 people died from heroin overdoses in 2013, the same year car accidents killed 35,369 people and firearms killed 33,636 people. Heroin overdoses top them both by at least 11,000. That is unacceptable. Our country is in crisis.
Opium production occurs in three regions: Southwest Asia, Southeast Asia and Latin America. A significant amount is converted to heroin and sent to Europe, Russia, Central Asia, China and North America. Typically the Mexican cartels smuggle drugs through the border. It is typically moved to the Northwest region and Midwest region. The use of opioids has tripled in the Pacific and Great Lake regions since 2007. It has absolutely exploded and is affecting not just the user, but the user’s family and the community.
People do not want their kids to see heroin addicts running around acting like wild animals, talking to themselves and hysterically laughing in the middle of the street for no reason at all. The community takes almost as big a blow from the effects of heroin as the user does. Nobody feels safe in their homes and people feel the need to lock their houses and cars because they are scared heroin addicts are going to rob them so they can get more money for heroin.
The opioid epidemic in Clallam County is becoming a big problem as the years progress. For the small population of Forks, it has a really high overdose rate. This year’s overdose rate for Forks is 20 percent of all of Clallam County’s overdose rate. Port Angeles is six times the size of Forks but totals 56 percent of the Clallam County overdoses.
Heroin caused another epidemic in the U.S and that was the spread of HIV. When people share needles with a person who is HIV positive, their blood can stay on the needles or spread to the drug solution. Users are injecting HIV directly into their body. From 2008-2011 injection drug use was responsible for approximately 10% of HIV cases. People share needles because they cannot clean needles or afford new ones so they use the same ones over and over or they share with other people.
Clallam County offers clean syringe services located in Port Angeles. For every used needle brought in, a clean syringe will be given. This prevents the transmission of HIV and hepatitis. The service also provides an opportunity for public health intervention and additional community services.
The heroin epidemic is causing great harm to people, families and communities. It will leave lasting effects, such as a new HIV epidemic. We must make this a priority so we can save our communities.
This has been broken down into a three-part series.
Next Week: The History of Heroin