Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Other Beast

"If only you could see
The stranger next to me
You promise you promise that you're done
But I can't tell you from the drugs

I wish you could see
This face in front of me
You're sorry you swear it you're done
But I can't tell you from the drugs."

- Jimmy Eat World

I confess that I was setting something up with my last post.  I won't lie that I don't on occasion have set-backs in the road to recovery, and the death of Andy Reid's son was a big one.  Not so much because that family's grief reminded me so much of ours, although it did, but because of the heroin connection, which unfortunately we share as well.  I apparently wasn't the only one who thought it was time to remind everyone of the evils of that insidious drug, because Mike Fuoco put it on the front page of the Sunday paper again.  (What you lose in that link is the gut wrenching photo of the mother who lost her son two years ago that the actual paper had, but I've saved a .pdf copy to remind myself of what that kind of loss looks like.)  I don't write about it nearly as much as I do the eating disorders that both girls struggled with, but maybe that's a mistake because it's a definite killer.  I've always had the general philosophy that the dead abdicated their stories to me, but the living can use their own voice.  Well, I count among the living and maybe it's time I share what our experiences with this awful drug are.  Would anyone listen?  I'm not sure.  What I do know is that there are other parents out there who have lost their sons or daughters to the drug before we lost Kelsey and they cut across all lines:  rich, poor, devout, not-so-devout, male, female, and across all racial lines.  I went to some of the funerals myself.  I'm not aware of anyone who would argue with me that it is a deadly drug, yet it remains an immensely popular one, despite all our knowledge about it.  And that's sort of sadly amazing.

Take for instance the fact that if you try and do some research on the drug and use Google, one of the first results you are likely to get around here is a website called Drugs Forum where the conversation is openly about the decline in the quality of heroin lately.  The most recent post baldly states, "Been using for the past five years and this is the second in five years time the quality has gone down the hill."  He asked if he was the only one who had noticed it.  And he got lots of answers - many of them intelligent sounding tales about how the supply is impacted by the war in Afghanistan, but none of them saying, "You [bleeping] idiot, are you wanting to die, because this WILL kill you?!"  Seriously.  I've looked it up twice just to make sure I really saw what I saw and it wasn't some sort of joke, but it doesn't seem to be.  People just chatting it up like they were talking about Chad Johnson's arrest or Kristen Stewart's break-up.  No big whoop.   I've convinced myself that the police surely know about the site and hopefully it remains up for them to try and trace the information of the people who are posting, maybe trying to sniff out someone who is supplying.  Maybe it just remains up because the internet is so large and varied now that if you block it, the chatter just goes underground so why bother?

Maybe I've, like a lot of people probably do, assumed that people know about drugs and their abuse, but eating disorders are an insidious and misunderstood disease.  The fact is that they are both destructive.  According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 3.7 million people in the United States have tried heroin.  Conversely, the South Carolina Department of Mental Health (which actually has a good bank of information on ED that I refer to often) estimates that there are eight million individuals who suffer from an eating disorder.  If these stats are accurate, ED is the larger beast in terms of volume, but in Pennsylvania, more people die from heroin overdoses than they do in car accidents (according to PBS.org), so the bottom line is they are both deadly afflictions and our household has been touched by both of them.  Therefore, it saddens me and angers me simultaneously when it claims another victim and another family is shattered by the loss of a child - adult child or not - and it saddens me when this city that I love has so many users that a leading journalist has spent over a year writing a series of articles about it while users chat online about the quality of the local supply.  Maybe some of those online chatters will stop and pay attention when Garrett Reid's toxicology report comes back, but unfortunately I doubt it.  But maybe some of their loved ones will.  I hope so.  But, if that doesn't work, come see me, I can tell you some stories that might scare you into getting your loved ones some help.


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