“You know when you’re underwater, and you need to come up for a breath? And it’s taking too long to get to the surface? That feeling, of having no oxygen left, your whole body feeling like fire, salty and aching with the desperate need to breathe? That’s it, only not exactly, because it’s worse.”
Those were the words of a former heroin addict describing on the XOJane website what it is like to go through withdrawal from the drug. She went on to describe her similarly addicted boyfriend …
“… all six feet, two inches of him, tattooed and scarred up and tough as hell, having lived through one of the most astonishingly hard lives I’d ever heard of, curled up in the bottom of a tiny, filthy shower stall like a little escargot, sobbing and shivering in desolate agony.”
It doesn’t sound like much fun, does it?
And yet heroin use and deaths from it have steadily — if not spectacularly — risen over the last few decades. The latest celebrity to fall victim was Academy Award-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was found dead in his Manhattan apartment Sunday with a syringe in his left arm.
By all accounts, Hoffman, 46, was as nice as he was talented, a father of three who took time to spend with his kids and be involved in community issues. But nice people fall prey to addiction, too.
“Heroin doesn’t discriminate,” Justin Thalheimer, a social worker and program manager at Otsego County Community Services’ chemical dependency clinic, told The Daily Star. “… It’s a drug that affects really good people, shifting their values and making them do things they normally wouldn’t, like lie to their families.”
At least once a week, the emergency room at A.O. Fox Hospital in Oneonta treats someone who has overdosed on heroin, according to Dr. Kelly A. Robinson, medical director of the hospital’s emergency department.
There is a steady pipeline from New York City and other parts of the state of people selling this poison in our area. That’s because there is a ready market here of people who crave the drug.
When local police take some drug purveyors off the streets — as they did with the arrests of six alleged dealers in two separate incidents a week ago —more spring up to take their place.
Some wonderful work is being done locally in areas of prevention, enforcement and treatment. But it’s obvious — felony drug arrests in Delaware County increased by 223 percent in 2013 — that the dealers are winning.
Heroin addiction is a sickness. Educating potential victims about their impending agony will be the key to turning the tide.