Right now, as you read this, this rabidly addictive and obscenely affordable/available drug is taking the life, potential, future from some parent’s baby. I hope that things are different in your part of the world, but here in mine (and in the U.S. it seems), far, far too many of our children are being lost to this drug.
If you doubt the popularity of this awful substance, a government survey from 2012 put the number at nearly 669,000 Americans who reported using heroin in the last year. That number has been on the rise since 2007. Here’s the worst thing… First time heroin users include 156,000 who bought into the lie. Who think they can handle it, take it or leave it. Who are so desperate, wounded or broken inside that even a false, temporary escape holds irresistible allure.
Proof that no heroin addict can manage this comes in the stark and terrible truth — overdose deaths are on the rise. Too many of our precious babies are dying every day. And we’re watching it happen.
There’s plenty of blame to go around. Fortunately there are more and more good, well-intentioned and (tragically) all too informed people speaking out. There are dedicated souls who manage needle exchanges and fight the terrible hold of this drug on addicts daily in rehabs. There are police departments who are telling addicts to come in, no questions/charges, for help.
And it’s still not enough.
Too many parents are losing their beloved babies to this demonic substance. Where once addiction to heroin might have fit that image of filthy big city alleys or high living celebrities, today the drug claims victims from all walks of life. Teens or adults at midlife. Poor or wealthy. Children with soap opera lives or “perfect” lives.
The sheer numbers have blasted away any shame or stigma that once came with heroin addiction. The stories are not few and far between any more, whispered in corners. Sadly they are everywhere you look.
- Imagine that the best you could hope for is that the child you love beyond reason is arrested. If he’s arrested, he’s alive.
- Imagine spending that first Father’s Day/Mother’s Day (or any holiday, special occasion) in (yet another) rehab. Active addicts, after all, cannot be with young children, even their own. Their families must cast them out, practice “tough love”.
- Imagine never, ever being able to give your child money, or your trust, so long as you live. Addicts fight an unseen, nip and tuck battle every day, you can never, ever forget that, or do anything that makes that choice easier.
- Imagine doing everything you know (moving Heaven and Earth) to put your precious, struggling child out of reach of this horrible substance. Only to have that child die with a needle in her arm.
- Imagine the child you love, who you’ve given every ounce of your time, energy and endless chances to get better, leaves you stranded on the side of the road, without gas or food. And does not care.
- Imagine how it must be to live the rest of your life (holidays, birthdays, every day) witout the child you love, haunted by what might have been. The best you can hope is that your story (tragedy) will save another child, another family.
For too many parents, this is real, horribly, heart wrenchingly real. Heroin is the enemy of every (grand) parent, brother, sister, spouse, child and friend. It takes and gives back nothing but misery. It is our enemy, just as surely as any terrorist or foreign power. We need to fight this one far harder, with everything we have.
It’s time to stop pointing fingers and wringing our hands. No more speeches and blue ribbon commissions. We know what the problem is, and we know where the drug is grown (South America, Southeast and Southwest Asia, Mexico), how it gets here.
We need to start fighting dirty, fighting to win.
- Stop treating addicts like criminals and more like the ill people they are. Much as it might feed the Puritanical need to blame and punish, this approach is clearly not working. It needs to go.
- Put dedicated, serious effort into stopping the flow of drugs into this country. Enforce current laws. Follow the money.
- Get heroin off the streets, make it harder for addicts to get that fix.
It may not be enough to save all of our children, but it might just be enough to save some of them.