Pubdate: Sat, 26 Dec 2009
Source: Chillicothe Gazette (OH)
Copyright: 2009 Chillicothe Gazette
Author: Russ Zimmer
Bookmark: (Heroin)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


Stephanie Peters' story, marked with broken promises,  is typical of a
drug addict.

She started experimenting with drugs as a teen in  Johnstown. She
jumped from marijuana and alcohol to  prescription opiates such as
Vicodin and Percocet.

She tried heroin for the first time at age 17, taking a  couple of
"bumps" -- slang for lines of powder.

"Within 15 minutes I was puking my guts up, and I swore  I would never
touch it again," she said.

That pledge lasted for about five years before it was  replaced by
another: I'll never use a needle.

She broke that vow at a incomprehensible time.

Three days after she gave birth to her son, Peters  returned to her

"The night we brought (our son) home from the hospital,  his father
had brought heroin home for me for my  (labor) pain," she said. "Due
to them finding pot in my  system, they didn't give me pain pills. ...
That was  the first night I used a needle."

She was taking the drug through injections into the  flesh of her
shoulders or hips, not her veins, she  said, but as with every
boundary she'd laid on her  heroin use before, that, too, was crossed.

Her arms, especially her left, will be lifelong  reminders of drug
abuse. Ribbons of pink skin wrap the  underside of her forearm and
upper arm, the result of  three surgeries for staph infections.

Peters said her boyfriend had always been the one to  administer the

"When I started using my veins, I didn't know what I  was doing ... so
I just shot it into my skin," she  said.

The solution sat underneath her skin and festered. The  bacteria
spread from her upper arm to her fingertips.  She said when she
finally presented herself to doctors,  they told her that had she
waited two days longer,  she'd have been dead.

Looking back, Peters said it's shocking that her  dalliance with
heroin didn't stop there.

"After I got out of the hospital, I went over to this  arm (her right)
and when I couldn't find nothing, I  would be so sick and needing it
just to feel normal  that I would go back to this arm, and that's how
I got  my second surgery," she said.

She returned to the hospital a third time for a staph  infection --
this time on her right hand -- and broke  down.

"I came out of surgery, I woke up crying," Peters said.  "I told them
that I was sorry, it was my fault. I'm  addicted to heroin and I need

She went through a three-day detoxification program in  March and was
clean for 10 days before she relapsed.

Peters and her boyfriend had a $200-a-day heroin habit.  She said they
would steal and lie to family and friends  to raise the necessary money.

All the while, Peters insists her son, who now is 20  months old,
didn't miss a meal or a bath. He also  appears to be free of any
defects associated with  prenatal drug use.

But she admits that while his physical needs were met,  drug abuse
"took my emotions away. It pretty much wiped  me completely out. I was
a walking zombie."

The pair eventually was busted for a break-in. Licking  County
Children's Services took her child and placed  him in the care of
Peters' mother, for which Peters is  grateful. She is not allowed
unsupervised visits.

Peters has been clean since Sept. 30 and left the  residential program
Nov. 11.

Interviewed Nov. 6, Peters said she was scared to leave  because
temptations -- in the form of heroin, opiates  and other drugs -- are
widespread. She knows where to  go to score drugs.

Many of the people Peters met while under heroin's  spell are in jail
or prison. Others are dead.

Her message to her fellow addicts: "They have a choice.  Either they
can go to prison or they can die, because  that's all drugs amount to,
prison time and death. And  I would put that in big letters." 
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