Straight Talk Advice

Jul 15, 2009

Heroin-laced cigarettes lead to deadly addiction

DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: I’ve been hiding my boyfriend in my basement bedroom because his parents kicked him out. What nobody knows is that he is addicted to heroin. We both began smoking it in our cigarettes, or sometimes snorting it, and now he has starting shooting it. Please help. I don’t want to do it anymore. He says he wants to stop, but all he does is get more. Maybe he sounds awful to be a heroin addict but he is a beautiful person and I love him. I don’t want him to go to jail or be homeless if I tell my parents about him. How can I get him to quit? – Desperate in Salinas, CA

Brie 18, Ashland, OR Ask me a question

A wonderful friend of mine got hooked on meth. His father kicked him out, too. He dropped out of school and was couch surfing and living on the streets. He kept saying he’d quit, that he’d go to rehab, but then he would just get high again. A group of us contacted his father about how worried we were. I don’t think he ever would have gone to rehab if we hadn’t informed his parents how bad it was. They sent him to a rehab facility for over a year. He’s clean and sober now but will forever have to be careful.

Michael 17, Fair Oaks, CA Ask me a question

My cousin became addicted to heroin after knee surgery when he was prescribed OxyContin. It took two years before anybody realized how bad it was. At that point, our family gathered for a rehab intervention and I was part of it. We walked into complete chaos. His floor was covered with syringes, strainers, dumped over pill bottles, cigarette butts, little chunks of black heroin tar, everything just littered. He was so far gone he could do nothing but feed the habit and not get sick. Every two hours he was having withdrawals.

Seeing him was one of the scariest things I’ve ever witnessed. Here was a guy I had looked up to my whole life. Now his skin was white and hanging, his cheeks puffy and distorted, his eyes rimmed with dark purple. He looked like the guy from Beetlejuice. When we took him outside, the sun made him sick. Just driving to the airport, he had to shoot up.

The interventionist was a recovered addict himself, and he said that once you start shooting you need rehab for at least a year just to manage — and even after 30 years clean, you can slip-up in a second. It’s so addictive it takes over. You’re no longer you, you become the drug.

Nobody in their right mind would ever do this to themselves, that’s why it’s so important to NEVER use these drugs. It’s a one-way ticket to being dead or losing all your freedom to feeding the addiction. You need to tough up and blow the whistle on both of you. He won’t do it. He’s already too far gone. It’s up to you.

DEAR DESPERATE: It IS up to you. And blowing the whistle means getting yourselves to a HOSPITAL, so please stop worrying about jail. If you’re afraid to tell your parents the truth, drive to the hospital and tell the doctors the truth. They know exactly how to help you and how to involve your parents constructively. If your boyfriend won’t go, go on your own and help him from there. He really is too far gone. You say you love him. Now prove it.

Readers: if you know someone using heroin, meth, crack, or cocaine, be a true friend and tell someone who can help them. As you heard from Brie and Michael, families aren’t always aware. Required reading for all teens and parents: Tweak by Nic Scheff and Beautiful Boy by David Scheff.

Editor’s Web Note: Drug rehabilitation experts are warning about a major heroin-addiction epidemic in this country in the next few years. Actually, it’s already begun. The current trend on high school and college campuses of smoking “tar” in the end of a cigarette is treacherous enough for an “invincible” teen to “try out”, but combined with most teens’ familiarity with the feeling of opiates via prescription drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Codeine and Percoset, we have disaster in progress. As today’s column shows, parents can be slow on the uptake. — Lauren

  1. By Chris, 21, age , from San Pedro, CA on 08/17/2009

    Heroin, meth, opium, black tar, all are very serious drugs and are among the most addictive substances in existence. The chemical structure of these drugs allows them to fit into certain receptors of the brain, causing the neurotransmitter dopamine to be released in excess. This causes a very pleasurable feeling that is very addictive. These drugs are so dangerous and addictive because they literally alter the chemistry and shape of the brain over long periods of use.

    Please understand readers, that occasional experimenting with heroin is not to be taken lightly as usage can lead to serious consequences: other than the physical damage, the courts are not lenient on drugs such as heroin. It is considered a narcotic and punishments are much harsher than a drug like marijuana. I would suggest you inform a counselor at your school or a teacher you can trust, even your parents if you think they can help the situation regarding your boyfriend. Shooting up heroin is an extremely addictive process and ruins lives.

    A friend of mine started out using opiates such as opium and Vicodin in small doses. Over time, he began to take more and more and next thing I knew, he was shooting up heroin intravenously. Get your boyfriend help soon before it’s too late!

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  2. By Abi, 21, age , from Pope Air Force Base, NC on 08/17/2009

    If you love him and want what’s best for him, turn him in and get him help. You need a program, too, for your own addiction, even if you say you don’t have one.

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  3. By Rachel, 18, age , from Fair Oaks, CA on 08/17/2009

    He needs a wake up call — which is usually something drastic. He needs you to help him because in his state he can’t see that he needs it for himself, and it can only get worse as he gets more addicted. If you can’t reach out to your parents, find someone who can help you get him help.

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  4. By Graham, 15, age , from Fair Oaks, CA on 08/17/2009

    Your boyfriend is mistreating you and taking advantage of your hospitality and naivety. It doesn’t matter how “in love” you are. No one should be treating you the way he is. Kick him out. Your life will be much better without him.

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  5. By Jon, age , from phoenix, az maricopa on 03/11/2011

    I got this cigarette from someone at group the other day and after finishing it off I felt nausea, hot and felt like getting high and I couldnt sleep after a long day of work, although I did eventually and nor eat much of anything, which wouldn’t normally be a problem except I hadnt eaten since noon,8 hours earlier. Im concerned cause I myself have been trying to stay off crystal meth and this cigarette I got was from a opiate college/high school student. Im annoyed and irratated at myself but wanted to know your feed back, if I should confront him on it and if I should, what do I say without hurting him.

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  6. By Lauren Forcella, age , from Fair Oaks, CA on 03/11/2011

    Dear Jon,

    Honestly, I don’t have any tolerance for what I call “white drugs.” And people distributing them should go to jail. I do not support sending people convicted of non-violent drug use to prison, and favor rehabilitation centers instead. But pushing drugs is another thing entirely. As you know from being a recovering meth addict, drugs in the category of meth, heroin, crack, cocaine, oxycontin, etc. are nothing but life destroying. Getting free of them is one of the more difficult things a human ever does.  So, if someone slipped you a cigarette laced with a drug in this category, you have every right to be extremely upset – as well as a grave responsibility to speak up to authority figures. You don’t say what kind of “group” this was, but it sounds like a recovery group. If this is correct, I would tell the facilitator without delay and have him or her help in the process of confronting this individual. If this is not the case, I would report that someone slipped you a drug to the police – and tell them who the person is. I have many letters from former drug addicts/pushers say that going to jail was the only thing that got them clean. It may sound harsh, but you will be doing everyone, including him, a favor.

    Let me know how things go.


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  7. By Jon, age , from Phoenix, Az Maricopa on 03/11/2011

    Thank You. Im actually myself in recovery my clean date is Nov. 8th and Im currently working on the fifth step. I myself am dealing with a combination of trauma Ive endured throughout my life during my addiction and afterwords. Im thankful that you gave the response you did because I did infact this afternoon tell the facilitator at the recovery group I attend at Empact about what happened. I feel a mix betweeen strength and weakness involving my recovery because normally when I struggle with the thoughts of using, with as much as I have dealt with thus far it reflects behavior from trauma and sexual abuse. But last night it felt as if all my defenses were down. Like I drank a beer and needed to complete the high by finding my drug of choice, crystal meth. Im currently doing just ok though despite the urge I feel. But thank you for complete response. I feel as though it was laced with something. What I recall from that moment was that when he offered that cigarette and I took it. I looked back and noticed he had another cigarette also lit half way down. So it makes me ask question and wonder what he had two cigarettes lit at the same time for in the first place. I also had a combiination of thoughts that were reflective of my using days which prompted me to call my sponsor and talk to him as well as keep my morning commitment to go to NA meetings. Once again I appreciate your response it made me feel like I did and am still doing the right thing. Thanks again.

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  8. By Lauren Forcella, age , from Fair Oaks on 03/12/2011

    You’re welcome.  And I’m glad you reached out. I think your hunch is right about those 2 lit cigarettes. Plus, your physical reaction to the cigarette told you something was up. I’m impressed that you resisted the temptation to look farther that day, even as your defenses were down. Good job! And great job telling the facilitator about this!

    I’m wishing and praying for you the best of success in getting to your clean date! The longer you are clean the better your life will become. Would love to know how you’re doing.


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