Last year one of my neighbours told me she was so happy that we don't get any "junkies" in this neighbourhood. When I asked her how she knew this she this she said we would know if they did because they would break into our houses and leave "AIDS infected needles" laying around. I tried to tell her that was a stereotyped view but she told me I was being unrealistic and would know better if i knew any junkies.Each morning, secondary school teacher, Aril Morrison gets up early for work. She showers, has breakfast, pats her cat good-bye and heads off for another day at a job she loves. April has been a school teacher for many years and is well respected by her peers.
I get a lot of positive feedback and praise from parents, staff and students for being a dedicated teacher who the young people respect. People often tell me that my job must be difficult because adolescence is a difficult age group, but I really don't find it to be that much of a challenge. All of my appraisals have been extremely positive. A few years ago I was also made a year level coordinator.April lives in one of the better parts of a large regional city in NSW with good neighbours and close to the city centre. Although single at the moment, April has recently separated from her fiancé after a relationship of nearly 10 years. Her ability to have children is fading with time which was an issue of contention with her ex fiancé but for April, getting married and having children is not a priority.
I'm not sure I believe in marriage. I think it is too religious based and this is evident by the current refusal to let same-sex couples get married. I am reaching an age where I may miss out on having children if I do not do it soon, but I am ok with that. It may be a decision that I regret later on in my life but I will cross that bridge when I come to it. I have thought about adopting or fostering a child. There are many children out there who already need a home to live in, but my former partner was only interested in having his own children. I am not bitter about the breakup and I still have a lot of respect for him.April is a contributing member of her community with the same concerns and worries as anyone else. She is polite, caring and humble, a hard productive worker, a tax payer with has no mishaps with the law, is an important part of a caring family and a role model for her students ... in fact she is probably a good role model for all of us.
Really, I am just a normal person, and I do also see myself as being a good person. I care about the world, I care about doing a good job and being a positive role model for my students, and I care about my friends, family and pet cat.But something is different about April. After a hard day’s work, she doesn’t head straight home, she heads the opposite way to a neighbourhood that is not so good. April is going to her drug dealer to purchase heroin. Why would April purchase heroin? Because, April is a heroin addict. For over 10 years now, April has had to rely on heroin to maintain a balance in her world, our world. April Morrison might be your next door neighbour, work colleague or friend. You would have no idea that April was dependant on heroin and you probably never will. Her fiancé was one of the few who did know and although not a drug user himself, he accepted her decision before they committed to a relationship.
My partner and I had been in a relationship for nearly ten years and he struggled to accept how my use impacted on our financial situation. We definitely didn't struggle, but he made much more money than I and was unhappy with me spending my money on heroin. He did not use any substances besides the occasional beer, cigarette or puff on a joint. He knew that I used before we started the relationship but he grew less and less tolerant of it as time went on. I admit that I did hide it a lot to avoid arguments, but this approach was not very successful. When you have lived with someone for seven years they are able to read your body language quite easily. The pinged eyes are a complete giveaway. Another issue for us was that I did not want to have children while I continued to use heroin.April might also be your local school teacher in charge of your children’s education. Even as you read this, your child may be looking up to their teacher, Ms Morrison, asking for her help on some school related issue. Do you feel uncomfortable knowing a heroin addict is teaching your children? I know most of the answers already. STOP. Why do you think a heroin addict shouldn’t be teaching your teenage children? Do you really have an informed opinion? Do you really know what a heroin addict is? Let me explain. Heroin is simply an opiate, derived from morphine. Millions of people are taking morphine based drugs daily. Teachers in NSW, politicians in Canada, judges in the US, pharmacists in Adelaide, priests in Italy, police officers in Canberra, Aboriginal elders in the NT, prosecutors in Britain, factory workers in Brazil, particles physicists in Germany, editors in Singapore, car salespeople in the Ukraine, grandmothers in Israel, health care directors in Paris, road crossing monitors in Greece, prison wardens in New Zealand and digital typographers in South Africa. Morphine is addictive and many people using morphine form a dependancy. Whilst morphine is the gold standard of pain medication, heroin was withdrawn from use in many countries after the US ruled it a drug with no medicinal value. The US has since waged a war on heroin via the UN which many countries feel obliged to follow. Heroin though, is still used in quite a few countries for medicinal purposes including addiction treatment. In their crusade to demonise heroin, the US led the way with propaganda campaigns and the spread of misinformation which has become the normal practice for other countries. The image of heroin junkies shooting up with dirty spoons and needles in rat infested hovels is the image put forward by governments for over 30 years leading to several generations believing this fallacy because that is what they have been told. In reality, heroin is just another opiate. Yes it’s more addictive and gives an instant effect when injected or smoked but after a few minutes, it’s like any other morphine based drug. In fact, the chemical structure of heroin just allows the morphine to cross the blood-brain barrier quickly and the end result is the morphine itself. The real problem with heroin addiction is current drug policy outlawing drug use that makes heroin expensive but someone working and on a methadone program can avoid the stereotypical image of a homeless, sickly looking junkie. They can pay for the drug and avoid most of the problems caused by having to fund their habit illegally. Heroin is basically non toxic with virtually no side effects except constipation. It’s the same as taking legally prescribed opioid medications. You have to ask yourself, would you even be worried if your child’s teacher was on medication for pain due to an accident? Of course not so really, what is the difference? The difference is perception. The perception that has slyly been drilled into us by government scare campaigns and a drug hysterical media that feeds that perception. Each morning, April visits a small pharmacy on her way to work to receive her methadone. This keeps her stable during the day and enables her to work without suffering withdrawal symptoms. Living in a small city increases the chances of being seen receiving treatment for addiction so April has to be very careful. She would love to tell her family, friends and co workers but experience has taught her otherwise. Also accessing clean needles is a problem where chemists don’t have the same mentality as in a large city. April instead goes to the needle exchange where they understand the realities of addiction. This simple task is also a risk if someone she knows recognises her.
My family do not know about my dependency. I don't want to risk losing them by telling them. When I started using heroin on a regular basis I did lose some friends who I thought would be more understanding and would stick by me. I was essentially the same, but I guess some people saw me as being less of a person. This hurt me a lot.Being a heroin addict is not easy and certainly not glamourous. Why do people do it? Why not just go to rehab? This may seem a logical question but if you think of the numbers of drug addicts over the years and how millions of them have tried and relapsed, it is no longer a simple question. Firstly, if it was that easy then there would be no problem with long term drug addiction. Secondly, it is not a black and white situation as portrayed by the MSM and anti-drug groups. If we listened to gooseberries like Bronwyn Bishop or Piers Akerhead then you are already a “bad person” because you didn’t “Just Say No”. If you, being a bad person can’t be strong willed enough to pop down the corner and do a quick detox or rehab then you’re a nasty, dirty junkie who needs jail. Research shows us that long term drug addiction is a physical problem and will power has very little to do with it. It is often compared to diabetes where the body doesn’t produce the right chemicals to live a normal life and the patient needs a natural replacement. For diabetics, that is insulin, for heroin addicts that is opiates. What most people probably don’t realise is that drug addiction is a chronic reoccurring disorder and far more complex than a newspaper can explain amongst all the sensationalist hype needed to attract readers.
Addiction to drugs is a chronic medical illness. It is caused by a complex interplay of biological and environmental factors. Studies have implicated several genes in predisposing individuals to drug abuse and addiction.The general view of drug addiction as a social problem stems back to the US where most of the world’s drug perceptions are based.
-Medical Assisted Treatment of America
Prior to the later 20th century, the general viewpoint of addiction, and particularly for opioid addiction, was that of a social and moral problem rather than a medical condition requiring treatment. The passage of the Harrison Narcotics Act (US) in the early part of the 20th century also tended to stigmatize those with an opioid addiction reinforcing the perception that these people were not only as social deviants, but also criminals whose behavior deserved punishment. Toward the latter part of the 20th century however, there was a growing change in the public's understanding and perception about addiction.Facilitating this change in public perception was the introduction of the medical model of addiction as a treatable condition that helped to bring about an increase in human rights laws.Why does April say of her heroin addiction?
-Medical Assisted Treatment of America
I use most days and the days that I don't can be very difficult. I am on methadone and this helps. I don't just use simply to avoid physical discomfort. I'm not after any sympathy, but I do have a diagnosis of PTSD. I function very well in the sense that I am optimistic, usually happy and I hold down a full time job, but I have been through a bit of shit and sometimes that plays on my mind. I know I can only speak for myself, but I guess I am making this point because I don't think it is fair to say that people simply choose to use drugs. I didn't wake up one day and think to myself "the sun is shining outside and I have nothing to do. I think I might develop a heroin addiction". It is much more complicated than that. I admit that I dabbled in drugs prior to the traumatic incident, but it was only afterwards that I really developed a dependency. It was a way to get rid of pain when nothing else could (including counselling). It does frustrate me that I have to hide this part of me, but I do it out of fear of being judged. Even though I would still be the same person if I told people (not to mention that heroin use is only one part of my life and does not consume my entire identity), I know that people get hysterical about it. I have experienced that hysteria and have come off second best. I also want to say that I have never resorted to crime to pay for my habit. I have also never dealt. This is not to say that I judge people who do. I have been employed the entire time so my salary pays for it. I also used my savings.All though April Morrison is not her real name, it is unimportant. What is important is that this lady could be anyone you know. Whether they have an addiction problem or not, they are human beings like you with the same needs especially understanding. The simplistic world of drug users that the MSM and others portray is usually not true and until we embrace drug addiction as a health issue, people like April will be forced into hiding. Prison is no replacement for hospital.
You can ask April questions if you like via the comments.