Heroin is quickly becoming the drug of choice among many young people ages 18 to 25 in San Diego. According to KPBS.org, 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.
Image courtesy of KPBS.org.