Use of prescription painkillers such as oxycodone has skyrocketed in the US. As a result, heroin use has tripled. Here’s how it works: you get a prescription, a “script,” for painkillers to treat something like neck pain. Sometimes, the need is legitimate. You might’ve been in a huge car crash or have chronic ulcers. Most of the time, however, narcotic painkillers are overprescribed. Your doctor decides you can have the pills for a few months.
You get hooked. You sell your surplus pills because they run from $30-$50 on the market. You find out soon that using a syringe (10 cents for one at Walmart) to inject the pill after it’s been dissolved in water is a lot more effective, so you start doing that. Soon, there’s no surplus of pills. You go back to your doctor. Sometimes they reissue your script and sometimes they cut you off.
You go into withdrawal. Everything hurts, your pain receptors are rebooting, and a light breeze can make you writhe in pain. You might even get seizures. You’re constantly too cold or too hot. This goes on for at least 10 days. Then, if you haven’t already bought a pill from someone else, you live the rest of your life in pain, craving, wanting, desperate for a pill. A bad day, the sight of a needle, a desire to celebrate—the slightest thing can set off an insatiable craving. You’ll probably relapse at least once, usually more. You probably will pull a stint or two in rehab where they’ll put you on suboxone or methadone. That shit is even harder to kick than pills but less fun. What’s the point?
At some point, you realize that paying $35+ for a pill that’s only going to keep you going a few hours is too high a price to pay. You can’t even make it through an eight-hour shift at work. You’re broke. So heroin works. Sure, each batch is different and unreliable, but it’s significantly cheaper, longer-lasting, and sometimes you get a really good batch and that’s fun.
Do you know who you are by then? You don’t have any friends. You can’t maintain a single relationship, even with people who are too naïve to realize what’s really happening. Your family is worried, confused, struggling. You’re broke. The only people you talk to are your hook-ups. You spend more time trying to get drugs than actually being high, and the high isn’t even that good anymore. You’re just trying to keep the withdrawal away.
Your life is drugs.
I know this because I live with a junkie, I’m in love with him…at least the little part of him that still exists. He lost his job. He’s stolen money from me dozens of times. He’s spent thousands of dollars on drugs instead of paying rent, and we’ve almost been homeless four times.
I don’t tell anyone. They’ll judge me for staying. They don’t understand why I’m still with him, why I’m still trying, and, believe me, some days I don’t understand either. I’ve listened to so many lies that I’m just numb when he talks a lot of the time.
We don’t have sex. That’s what drugs do to your body. No sex drive. We haven’t had sex in months. At night, he can’t sleep most of the time. He has to hand his checks from work straight to me and he can’t be trusted with more than $10. He begs for a pill almost every day. He’s begged me to kill him more times than I can remember. He’s relapsed three times now.
I’ve had countless sleepless nights, caring for him through seizures, shiver fits, and bouts of extreme anger. He’s lost so much weight. He used to be very handsome, and now all I see are bones. He resents me for wanting him to get clean; at least a part of him does. The other part is desperately glad that I’m still there.
Last night was our anniversary. He spent most of dinner on his phone texting someone whom he owes money. We went to an ATM afterwards, withdrew $60, and went to pay some drug dealers. Happy anniversary.
I’m an empty shell of who I used to be. So is he. There’s been no money, no time to handle my own issues, no trust, no intimacy. This isn’t what I wanted. I’ve dropped out of school, and I work three jobs to support him. He still smokes a pack a day.
Some of you will call me weak. He thinks I’m unbelievably strong for still supporting him after all of this. I don’t care what you think really, but I just want you to know one thing: This is a true story, and it’s true for so, so many people besides me. You’ve just been blind. You don’t realize how common this is, that it happens to everyone, people of every color, financial status, in every profession. You’ve been ignorant, biased, and ignored something happening right in front of your eyes. There’s a problem in the US with the way pharmaceutical companies are handing out powerful narcotics and making exorbitant amounts of money off their legal and illegal use. There’s little to no support for junkies and addicts—rehab facilities are like prisons more than anything. You either die or you go to prison in this world I’m in when you’re using. We need better options for those because this isn’t a remote problem affecting a minority anymore, it’s huge, it’s growing, it’s a fucking epidemic. Open your eyes.