Pubdate: Thu, 15 Sep 2011
Source: Ann Arbor News (MI)
Copyright: 2011 The Ann Arbor News
Author: Rich Kinsey, Community Contributor 
Note: Rich Kinsey is a retired Ann Arbor police detective sergeant who now
blogs about crime and safety for He also serves as the
Crime Stoppers coordinator for Washtenaw County. 


If there is a more evil substance than heroin, I cannot think of what
it is. Perhaps there are even more addictive substances (e.g. crack,
methamphetamines and alcohol to name some possibilities), but I doubt
those substances have the tragic consequences that heroin does.

Heroin in a substance that, once taken, causes many lives to start
"circling the drain." Many who try heroin think they can "manage" the
drug. They find rather quickly that heroin will rule their life.

I am not a drug counselor and my experience comes from speaking to
addicts I met who found themselves in the back of a police cars or in
police interview rooms. Some of those I would later speak to many
times on the street.

For some who decide to try heroin for the first time when their 
judgment is impaired, like while drinking alcohol, they may die right 
there. I have seen that happen and the Medical Examiner's office 
educated me that alcohol intoxication increases the potency of opiates 
(heroin is an opiate) geometrically. Heroin is much stronger and more 
life threatening when used when someone is drunk.

For those who think they can "manage" heroin, they try it, like it and
decide, so that they won't become an "addict," that they will only use
it once every two weeks for instance. About a week goes by and
confident that they are not addicted they try it again.

The next day feeling no ill effects or physical cravings the heroin
"managers" again delude themselves that they are not addicted
- --physically that is. So they use heroin again. Soon it becomes daily
use and physical addiction.

Other heroin "managers" think that snorting heroin will keep them from
getting addicted to heroin like needle users -- WRONG. It really does
not matter how heroin or other opiates are administered they are still
very addictive. The heroin user becomes an addict and gets physically
ill with terrible flulike symptoms that will only get worse until they
get more heroin. This is called being "dope sick."

To understand a heroin addict and why they do the things they do, ask
yourself a simple question: What would you do to keep yourself from
getting violently physically ill? For many of those poor souls there
is a cycle that just keeps repeating itself. They use heroin, it feels
good so they use more to get the same effect they did the first time.

Once addicted the heroin user does things they would never do normally
and get themselves in trouble trying to feed their addiction and avoid
being dope sick. They get arrested and incarcerated and go through
withdrawal. They stay clean as long as they are incarcerated -- hopefully.

When they get out they are happy to be clean and off heroin. Then they
are faced with a stressor -- perhaps by being a convicted criminal and
not being able to get a job -- and the escape of heroin beckons once
more to begin the cycle anew.

Some of these addicts who have not been educated about drug tolerance
take the same dose of heroin they took before they were incarcerated.
Unfortunately the dose they were taking before to get high was a dose
their body had built up to gradually. Their body had built up a
tolerance to heroin over time. If a person whose system was cleaned of
heroin takes that same dose they had buillt up to before, it can
overdose and kill them.

The lucky addicts will be given opportunities to go through drug
rehabilitation. Court ordered rehabilitation for the addict who does
not really want it for themselves seldom works. Rehabilitation for
those who really want to get clean may take several courses to gain
success. For those who help these poor souls and for those who have
successfully walked away from heroin you should be very proud of
yourselves -- you are extraordinary, keep up the good work.

I have known some who have been able to escape the drug, but it is a
tough battle. Those who have been successful are a lucky few and
usually had a good support system with family and friends who cared.

Many police officers try to give advice to those they arrest or come
in contact with, especially the young that might be saved. The advice
is often met with rolling eyes and yawns of boredom, but many of these
officers persevere hoping they might be able save someone along the
way. For those officers -- do not be deterred; keep talking and keep

Several local police officers had a little bit of their hearts broken
last week with the death of a young heroin user they tried to reach.
Outwardly they are all professionals and just shake their heads, but
it still hurt inside.

To them, I dedicate this column and remind them to keep trying -- you
do make a difference.

Lock it up, don't leave it unattended, be aware and watch out for your
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.