A friend I’ve known for several decades is laying his son to rest today. Even as I type the words, tears fill my eyes. Again.
His son was a handsome 22-year old just beginning his life with an energetic 2-year old daughter.
Unfortunately, what began as smoking weed in high school turned into a heroin addiction less than two years ago.
Despite his family’s efforts (his daughter’s mother denying him access to his child until he sobered up, a stint in rehab, tough love with his father calling the police on him for various things), he overdosed. In a shady hotel room. Alone.
While I never met him in person, I have known his father for 20 years. I remember the stories of the energetic, wonderful little boy who loved all things Barney.
His family will be, I’m sure, filled with “what ifs,” that will haunt them. But sometimes you have to let an addict sort through things on their own not allowing them to pull your into the black hole in which they are stuck. Sometimes all that can be done for an addict is to love and let go.
Studies have shown that while teen use has gone down one percentage point since 2001 (3.1% down to 2.4% of teens have used heroin), young adult use is on the rise. Nearly 30% of seniors in high school say heroin is easy to obtain and even middle schoolers know where to find it (12.6%).
Average age of first time use is approximately 20-1/2 – right when my friend’s son tried it for the first time.
Heroin and morphine account for approximately 50% of all drug overdose deaths in the U.S. Use is typically preceded by abuse of prescription opiates such as vicodin or codeine.
Spending $150 – $200 per day to support their habit, many addicts also deal drugs, steal to support themselves or live in squalor. Of course, there are the unusual few who are “functional addicts” and support themselves with full-time jobs.
Further statistics show that 80% of addicts use with someone else. Yet the negligent actions when under the influence have shown that 80% of victims of overdose are found alone.
Unfortunately, my friend’s son is just a number to those who never knew him. Another heroin fatality. Nothing more.