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Those Hooked on Heroin Are Younger, But Drug Court Helps

Written by Eliza Player on Monday, 02 April 2012. Posted in Heroin

Those Hooked on Heroin Are Younger, But Drug Court Helps

Heroin is quickly becoming the drug of choice among many young people ages 18 to 25 in San Diego.   According to, over the last five years, the number of young heroin addicts in publicly funded treatment has tripled.  This habit often begins with prescription painkillers, and the user progresses to using heroin.

Wade Ballin tells reporters that his habit started in high school after he broke his ankle and had reconstructive surgery.  Ballin said doctors gave him morphine and Percocet for pain.  Ballin recalls, “Once that ran out, I became addicted, ’cause I didn’t take them as prescribed.  And then I started doing like Oxycontin, and that’s synthetic heroin, so I started smoking that stuff.  It became that it wasn’t doin’ it for me anymore, and I ended up smoking heroin for the first time, when I was like 17.”

Ballin claims one reason he switched to heroin is that it is less expensive.  He claims, “It was cheaper.  You know, you get more for your money.”  Ballin started stealing to support his habit and was arrested 27 times.  The last time he was arrested was in May 2011.  He said, “Honestly, it felt like, they say you have a spiritual awakening kind of thing.  It was kind of like that.  I was comin’ down and I was in my cell, and I just didn’t want to do it anymore.  And then I was given the opportunity to come to drug court.”

Judge Harry Powazek heads up one of the four drug courts in San Diego.  He pointed out that recently they have been getting a lot of young people in drug court, often times going straight to heroin in a fairly quick progression.  The Judge also said that many of them start on heroin, and once they get hooked on heroin, it is hard for them to see where this addiction will lead them.  Powazek said, “Their addiction has stunted their maturity.  They’re kids!  You know, all they see is the immediacy of what they want.”

Drug court counselor Jeff Jeffery, explains the simple philosophy behind the 18-month-long treatment program mandated by drug court.  Many of the people in the program are long-time drug addicts who have done numerous stints in jail.  If they continue to test clean and complete the program, they will have some of their charges dismissed.  Jeffery said, “Most people don’t wake up in the morning and decide how they are going to harm themselves.  There’s usually something underneath, usually low self-esteem.  You’re gonna find a lot of insecurities and inadequacies.”  He argues that if you address those issues and get to the core of why people use drugs in the first place, there is a better chance of recovery.  And then you help them figure out how to live without drugs.

The Centers for Disease Control said sales of prescription opioids has quadrupled in the last decade.

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About the Author

Eliza Player

Eliza Player

I have been writing as long as I can remember, even carrying tattered notebooks with me through the streets and strip clubs of New Orleans, in the midst of my heroin addiction. I lived a life saturated in heroin until Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, leaving me to fend for myself, eventually facing my demons and coming face to face with my addiction. I have been clean for five years, and since then I have become a mother, graduated college, and started a writing career. I have a B.A. in Mass Media Communication, with a minor in Journalism. I have also written one published book, Through Both Hell and High Water: A Memoir of Addiction and Hurricane Katrina, which tells the story of those dark days I spent in New Orleans after the storm, battling with addiction amidst a natural disaster. I am the blogger and news curator for RecoveryNowTV, and I love sharing the stories of the world, as well as my own personal journey, with my readers. I hope that my words can touch others out there, struggling with addiction.

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