Sunday, 12 September 2010

Heroin Addiction is a Bitch

I hate heroin … I also love it. I love it when I have it but hate it when I don’t. It’s an easy drug to love and an easy drug to hate but since most of us can’t afford to be pinned all the time, there’s probably more hate than love. Yep, using heroin is definitely a love-hate relationship.

Luckily, I’m not currently using heroin everyday as I am on substitution treatment. My heroin use is limited to about once a month, which might sound like a lot to non-users but believe me, it’s nothing compared to the usual 90 or so hits needed each month when you’re an active user. 

But this is where we need to separate the myths from reality. There is a big difference between the public perception of heroin addiction and the actual cycle of heroin-methadone-relapse-heroin-methadone-relapse... etc. For a longer term addict, using heroin is not about the high but something far more alluring … normality. The quest to feel some of those human traits like optimism, happiness, contentment etc. far exceeds the need to get high. Substitution treatments like methadone, buprenorphine and Suboxone might help with withdrawals or be a life changer for many but the stark truth is that they can also help fuel depression and emptiness. I have experienced this first hand and I must admit … I didn’t like it. The methadone blues are not on my wish list for Santa.

When a person is addicted to something they cannot control how they use it, and become dependent on it to cope with daily life.

I once experimented with using heroin everyday instead of methadone and surprisingly, I found myself far more productive and level headed than I had been in years. It cost me well over $1500 for the week and I needed to use three times a day, including an afternoon hit at work. Not exactly conducive with leading a normal life.

What if you could use heroin everyday without having to worry about the law and the money to afford it? Is it really any different to the 700mg of Slow Release Oral Morphine (SROM) that I take everyday? Is it any different to a daily dose of methadone? Some countries prescribe heroin (diacetylmorphine) to longer term addicts who don't respond to other treatments and so far, it has been very successful. Unfortunately, Heroin Assisted Treatment (HAT) is not available in Australia so any attempt to self medicate with heroin, must be done illegally and expensively, away from medical supervision.

Methadone remains a pretty good first-line treatment, but either the switch to heroin or using heroin as an adjunct obviously has increased effectiveness for this difficult population.

Heroin addiction is a bitch. But so are the current alternatives. Those who do not respond well to the available treatments like rehab, detox or substitution treatment, are in a real bind and inevitably turn to crime to fund their addiction. This is a costly outcome for both the user and society, especially when there is a ready solution like Heroin Assisted Treatment (HAT). I often think that if I could just get my hands on enough money, I could stock up on diacetylmorphine(heroin) and start to experience a better quality of life. My depression goes away when medicated on heroin and I start to feel somewhat human again. When dosed with heroin, I don’t look like a junky nor act like one but instead, I am capable of performing in a high pressure job, contributing to my community and living a productive life. The simple truth is that heroin can be an effective anti-depressant for some people.

But the dreaming must stop. After 40 years of anti-drug propaganda and the never ending message that heroin addicts are dysfunctional, dangerous sub-humans, the idea that heroin itself might be an effective treatment is just too much for the public and politicians to grasp. Each year, we churn out more and more opiate addicts and although many will finally kick their habit, many will not. Out of this remaining group will be those who were born with a predisposition for opiate addiction e.g. an imbalance in their brain's chemistry, some of the 66 known genes that promote the need for opiates, a persistent impairment of synaptic plasticity in a key structure of the brain etc. It may be impossible for some people to comprehend but this small group of addicts have a physical problem and are not simply selfish losers with no will power. But try telling that to the powers-that-be or a largely ignorant public.

We have an increasingly clear idea of how genetic and early childhood influences lie at the heart of the development of addiction and how the neurochemistry of the brain renders users unable to simply stop using.

In 2010, it’s abysmal that a so called “advanced society”, continues to promote laws that punish these people. At the top end are the addicts that sell drug to other addicts. Amazingly, they are lumped into the same class as child molesters, murderers and rapists. But these small time user/dealers are not doing it for profits or the lifestyle but to self medicate a medical condition. It’s a catch-22 situation where they have 2 options, both of which attract harsh legal penalties and public vindictiveness. When confronted with the choice between crimes that hurt people like stealing, theft, robberies etc. or simply selling drugs to friends or other users, most will choose the latter. But deciding not to inflict any pain on others and instead, choosing a victimless crime like drug dealing, we condemn them with as much venom as possible. 

Many countries even have mandatory drug laws that take away the power for a judge to intervene when there are mitigating circumstances. Incredibly, in 1956, the US passed the first mandatory sentence via an act that made a first time cannabis possession offence a minimum of 2 to 10 years with a fine up to $20,000. It was repealed in 1970. In 1973, New York State introduced mandatory minimum sentences of 15 years to life imprisonment for possession of more than four ounces (112g) of a hard drug. The most famous mandatory sentence is the “3 Strikes and You’re Out” law that has been implemented in many countries since the 1990s. This has caused a huge increase in drug users being jailed for lengthy periods - usually 25 years to life. You know something is greatly amiss when being caught 3 times for drug possession can send you to jail for life or when small time user/dealers are imprisoned for longer than violent criminals.

Dealer Who 'Hated' His Heroin Addiction Jailed
By Staff Reporter

A "SMALL-SCALE" heroin dealer who sold £10 wraps to undercover police officers has been sent to jail for five years and eight months.

John Birchall, 45, of Morgan Avenue, Torquay, "hated" his addiction to heroin but found he could not survive without it, Exeter Crown Court was told.

He pleaded guilty on a previous occasion to five counts of supplying and intending to supply the Class A drug to undercover officers in May.

Judge Barry Cotter said he had no choice but to impose a minimum seven-year term, minus credit for a guilty plea, as it was the third time Birchall had been convicted for a supply offence.

The judge said: "It inevitably has to be a custodial sentence."

Prosecutor Emily Pitts said Birchall had been caught as part of a police sting operation.

Two undercover officers made inquiries on the street about heroin and Birchall, known as "Scouse John", was identified as a man who could "sort them out".

Three wraps containing £10 of heroin were supplied to the officers on separate occasions. Each wrap contained 0.1 grams of the drug.

Three more wraps, weighing 0.5 grams, were sold on another occasion. A further wrap, which turned out to be ibuprofen, was sold in a fifth deal.

Anne Bellchambers, in mitigation, said Birchall has been showing improved signs of dealing with his addiction.

She added: "He says he's been taking drugs since he was 14. He hates it but it leads him back into this sort of offending every time.

"It is small-scale supply with little or no profit — under £200 for these deals."

Judge Cotter said his hands were tied about what sentence to impose considering his past offences.

"The reality of the matter is that after an undercover police operation, you have been convicted of a third drug trafficking offence.

"That means I have to impose a particular sentence."

The judge added: "The brutal reality is that society has taken a view of those that continue to be involved in drug trafficking that if you persistently get involved in such conduct, you face a long custodial sentence."

He said he hoped Birchall would "still have the motivation" to quit drugs when he got out.

The defendant was convicted of three counts of supplying the Class A drug, one of being concerned in its supply and one of offering to supply the drug.

He was given a total sentence of 68 months.

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Anonymous said...

68 months x monthly expenditure to hold him captive at Her Majesty's Leisure..hmmmm surely a twice daily visit to a heroin clinic would have been a lot cheaper on society/taxpayers.
There are figures out there , that it costs 12,000 to 15,000 pounds yearly to medicate someone on diamorphine...shit maybe they could give addicts " H-visas" to Afghanistan so they can buy a kilo of it for US$150... the 15,000 per annum figures reeks of being jumped all over/cut to the sh*thouse..then again everyone wants a cut ,be it politician or doctor...poor guy in the UK,he was probably a reliable dealer for a group of users...wonder what they're doing now their supply has been interrupted?

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Anon.
Yes, 15,000 pounds seems expensive for something that is basically worthless. It just shows how much Big Pharma hike up their prices. But all ambitious drug dealers know that clients will pay anything for good smack!

Anonymous said...

Terry , what do you think about the greens /labor " injection rooms on every corner" crap by liberal/national diehards???I realize the greens policy seems radical to ultra-conservatives..but to use that fear n smear as B Joyce did the very night the indis sided with Gillard,do they (the anti-camp) know something we dont??
Is there perhaps some real action going on behind the scenes regarding diamorphine??? SERCO wont be happy
Maybe they should put an injecting room in every kindergarten and sunday school meeting lol
I am truly hoping the new Govt takes the evidence from the european implementation of diamorphine prescription as the success that it is ,and follows Denmark in not even requiring a "trial"..whats there to trial??? to see how politically dangerous it is??? = do it early in the 3/4 year cycle ... let the results speak for themselves...regain potential vote-swingers with what proves to be intelligent policy,rather than wait and wait ..
I agree with you totally RE diamorphine/heroin as a very effective ANTIDEPRESSANT..
and definitely a lot safer than some of the shit they would have depressed people on ,like,Seroquel,Avanza and all that other crap...then again mental illness is big business too,so i imagine there'd be some secret visits to Health n Aging by US diplomats/Pharma lobbyists...question is how much $$$ will it take Nicola Roxon to prescribe more of the same"

Terry Wright said...

Thanks Anon.
The "heroin injecting rooms on every corner" chant is so pathetic. What are they? ... a bunch of 13 year olds?

If anything, it shows how anti-science they are and how low they will go to slander the opposing political parties.

Barnaby Joyce reminds me of a schoolboy arguing about who he hates most in Home & Away.

Anonymous said...

Terry, I don't have much to say here because I agree with pretty much everything you've written.

But I thought that I should just, again, say THANK YOU, as perhaps such expressions of gratitude will provide you with the motivation to persevere. You provide a valuable public service, and I sincerely hope that you don't give up in frustration -- we need people like you with the brains, experience and writing talent to point out the proverbial nudity of our imperial rulers.

Keep at it, and one day we will be toasting you as we skin up without fear in a public place or traipse merrily down to the chemist to pick up half a gram of cheap, uncut china white... mmmm...

The War on Drugs is a war on human nature. You know it, I know it, and those who don't know it are, in the main, wilfully ignorant.

-- RV

jules said...

Hi Terry.

First of all I want to say good on you for having the courage to write this blog. And thanks.

I'm not a user, but plenty of my friends are or have been. Some I care about a lot. This blog has been helpful at times just dealing with that.

Secondly, this article is great.

Right now I'm helping someone I care about a lot detox. Its been nearly 3 weeks and they are nearly there. They had a big habit before they started so it hasn't been easy on them.

I haven't shown them this article yet, but I will when they wake up. (Finally sleeping without opiates ... thank fuck for that.)

They want to stop, but are struggling with the idea of it, actually doing it, having used for a long time. Its OK here at my place, but they live in another state and worry what'll happen when they go home.

They want an implant. View it as their only option. Seeing as there is no Heroin Assisted Treatment available.

This person is smart, planned their own detox, and organised it while maintaining a raging habit. They aren't some idiot like Miranda Devine.

Do you have any advice, any contacts with good information about it etc etc?

I know about the issues surrounding Naltrexone and rapid detox, that didn't happen here. They also have high personal motivation, so its not like this has been forced on them. They are desperate to stop, have great family support, tho there are other family issues there.

Good info (ie on following up to check its working and the levels are right etc etc) and a trustworthy dr to provide the implant are hard to come by.

I'd appreciate any help you could provide.


Anonymous said...

Im pretty sure heroin was first introduced as a treatment for morphine addiction.

Now morphine is being used to treat heroin addiction.

Funny how times change!

I respect your views on SOME heroin addicts being able to function normally, i have a friend in his early thirties who has been an addict for 15 years. He is currently studying for his phd.

I was a regular user myself for a few years back in the late 90's.

But im not sure it is possible for most users.

Consider the problem of opium addiction in China a hundred years back. Cheap readily available opium nearly destroyed their country, and in Afghanistan serious problems are caused by addiction, despite heroin being dirt cheap and readily available.

Im all for legalisation, or perhaps decriminalisation, but lets not pretend that addicts who have their shit together are the majority.

Guys like you and my mate are, in my view, the minority.

BTW, i really enjoy your blog!

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many people actually have a predisposition for it or whether, for more people, it is easier to worry about a heroin dependency than all the other shit going on in our own worlds??

I'm not a huge fan of biological theories as I don't like the idea that I am "powerless" to drugs or that I am hardwired to be a dependant user. I have a daily habit of approx $300 and I believe I will get through this and eventually stop using (at least to this degree). Despite stereotypes, I am also pretty functioning (although I do experience a fair bit of anxiety due to the need to hide my habit), but if drugs were taken out of the equation, I would be pretty lost. I'd have to think about all those things I don't want to think about just yet.

I am also a woman so it is only fair to say "Heroin Addiction is a Bastard too".

Thanks Terry.

Terry Wright said...

Thanks RV.
I really appreciate comments like yours and it does keep me writing.

Now tell me again about "how we need people like you with the brains, experience and writing talent..." :)

Thanks Anon.
Awesome pickup - the irony of morphine being used to treat heroin addiction when heroin was once used to treat morphine addiction.

I fully agree that most addicts cannot function well and I feel for them. Heroin addiction is as nasty as it gets. Even those who do manage to "function" in society will most probably tell you that they would prefer to be clean than having to rely on heroin everyday.

And thanks for the compliment.

Thanks Ms Anon.
Not many addicts actually have a predisposition for addiction that is strong enough to override the natural urge to be clean. There are degrees to it with most addicts kicking their addiction within a year or 2. But, longer term addicts usually have physical conditions that a short term addict doesn't have.

And yes, "Heroin Addiction is a Bastard too".

Terry Wright said...

Hi Jules
Thanks for the compliments.

In regards to your friend, an experienced, well qualified doctor is probably the best bet. Keep looking until you find the right one.

Since your friend is clean and level headed, maybe Naltrexone is the way to go? Naltrexone is an excellent option for some people but beware of the dangers. Some doctors push Naltrexone on everyone with disastrous results e.g. George O'Neal and Stuart Reece. They also use some bizarre, unorthodox practices involving religion and other unsafe strategies. Keep away from these doctors.

Remember that an implant is just one method for Naltrexone as it can be administered orally. A well informed doctor should be able to point you to the right place.

Once your friend is clean, support will become the main issue. There is no replacement for having people around you that care.

I hope this gives you a few ideas but again, find the right doctor for your friend to have the best chance of permanent recovery.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hi Terry just wanted to check your correct email address used : which i hope is correct anyway just wanted to invite you to a debate,


Anonymous said...

Ibogaine is your solution and it works do some research on youtube or the net, the powers that be will never support it as it takes money from proffessional cash cows, doctors jails methadone companies etc etc IBOGAINE for addicts hurrah

Anonymous said...

blog from a girl who survived heroin abusive parents:

Cassy P. said...

Heroin addiction is a BITCH. Here is a blog by a friend (she only recently started), who talks about her living with parents who were heavily addicted. It may help some of your readers see that they are not alone. If they are children or family members of an addict. And coincidentally, she too thinks Heroin is a bitch.

Anonymous said...

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addiction treatment center said...

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Anonymous said...

Hi Terry, I really relate to your views that were living in the dark ages, when these treatments are out there.
I too am a lot more productive on heroin. When I'm not having to do crazy things to get it. I've got my own blog on life as heroin addict and the crazy situations we get into and are forced into by the law. Check me out;

Ginger xx