I think back on one of the many days I was dope-sick. I was still with my wife and kids. It was near sunrise. I drove from my farmhouse in Pelham, New Hampshire squeezing my sphincter muscles until the urge to fart left me. If I could only hold out until the white liquid hit my heart—I wouldn’t shit myself.
Adams Street, the place I scored heroin, was naked except for a grotesquely thin Puerto Rican kid in his early 20s. He had a teardrop tattoo under his left eye. He was Nieta—an extremely dangerous Puerto Rican jailhouse gang. Of course, I was driving a Mercedes Benz and was built like a jock. He thought I was a cop.
I was “jonesing,” and I couldn’t care less what he thought of me. Only my agenda mattered. First, don’t give him the money and let him out of my sight. Second, bite the bag—make sure it’s heroin. Third, get safely to the Burger King bathroom down the street to cook the heroin and stick the needle into my vein.
I motioned him into the car. He jumped in and directed me to a house a few streets off Adams Street with hand commands. It was a predominantly Cambodian neighborhood. We didn’t speak. I had a 9-inch screwdriver in the driver’s side compartment of the lower door. My left hand never left the yellow handle.
He left the car, expecting me to follow. One knock and it opened. The place was a shooting gallery. Wall to wall junkies sleeping on the floor. I followed him to the bathroom. The mold smell made me gag. He cooked a bag in an aluminum beer-bottle cap, shot it, and handed me a needle and a fresh bag of heroin. His eyes were pitch-black—emotionless. His purple-crimson blood was clearly visible in the bottom of the syringe—maybe a centimeter thick between the end of the needle and the black rubber stop on the stick-push.
I carefully poured the tiny bag of heroin into his cooker. Grabbed a cigarette butt out of the ashtray on the windowsill, bite off a small piece of the filter, and spit it into the cooker. I thought about my little boys and what it must feel like to die of AIDS. I turned the cold water on, gathered 20cc of water into the syringe, shot it into the cooker, fired-up a match, and watched it bubble. The Puerto Rican kid watched. He thought I was hesitating because I was a cop. He had no idea I lived on a half a million-dollar farmhouse with a wife and two children.
That was 30 years ago.
When I look back now, I cannot believe I survived. Nothing mattered to me except heroin. It was my God. Every word that exited my mouth was a lie. Every day I woke up, I wanted to die. Every injection I administered into my veins was my silent attempt to commit suicide.
But I survived, caught some luck and became a writer. It wasn’t easy. I did it the hard way: abstinence.
I am very thankful for the fact I do not have to enter recovery today. I am not sure that I would have made it. Today the major MOT, method of treatment, for opioid addiction is long-term maintenance. What, back in my day, we referred to as “liquid handcuff.”
I kicked methadone once and honestly, I would rather kick heroin cold a dozen times before I went through methadone withdrawal again. I remember praying to God to take my life. It felt like my bones were on fire.
PLEASE understand: suboxone and methadone are much-needed drugs to help the addict through the initial physical withdrawal of opioids affect on the human body. However, in some ways, the physical tolls of substance abuse can be easier to address than the emotional ones. In many cases, people are driven back to heroin by emotional swings, not by irresistible cravings.
But I would be a fool to think that my way, abstinence, is the only way for a fully successful recovery from opioid addiction. However, I firmly believe that we are going to lose the war against opioid addiction if we continue with the MOT presently being used to treat opioid addiction. And we are going to lose badly!
Big Pharma controls the United States Congress. Big Pharma created this opioid epidemic. Why should we be shocked that Big Pharma does not want the deaths of what many estimate as many as 150 Americans per day to end?
It is all about the “Benjamins.” On June 22, 2017, Time Magazine reported the following facts:
In 2016, the pharmaceutical companies that make opioid painkillers raked in $8.6 billion in sales for 336 million opioid prescriptions, according to the data firm QuintilesIMS. That’s enough to give pain pills to 9 out of every 10 American adults.
Analysts estimate that the follow-on opioid market is worth at least $3 billion a year. Given current trends, some project that it will top $6 billion by 2022.
Pharmaceutical companies made billions promoting the aggressive prescribing of opioids. Now they’ll make billions from treating the consequences of overprescription.
Three of the main companies that make naloxone products raised the prices on their drugs as demand increased. From 2005 to 2014, Hospira, which was purchased by Pfizer in 2015, increased the list price of its 10-milliliter injectable naloxone pack by 2,300 percent, from $9 to $220, according to data from Truven Health Analytics. From 2001 to 2014, the list price for Amphastar’s 20-milliliter naloxone pack jumped 175 percent, from $120 to $330. Kaléo raised the price of Evzio, its naloxone auto-injector, by 550 percent. When it was first introduced in 2014, it cost $575. In 2016, it was $3,750.
Did I mention that Big Pharma controls the United States Congress?
On Oct. 26, 2017, President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a national health emergency. Moments before he came on national television, I was on a live MSNBC panel to discuss the epidemic. I mentioned abstinence, and I received an avalanche of nasty tweets and emails.
Regardless, what the doctors tell opioid addicts, Big Pharma knows the truth. Suboxone and Methadone are opioid agonists that create a conscious sedation which separates the addict from their present awareness.
Again, we will not win the war against opioid addiction by treating opioid addicts with opioids. We must at the very least offer abstinence as a method of treatment for heroin addiction.
However, it will not be an easy alternative option, Big Pharma knows that they have created a population handcuffed to addiction.
Ritchie Farrell is the author of I Am A Heroin Addict.
Follow Ritchie Farrell on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ritchiefarrell1
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.