Saying no to Netta: When skin popping takes you to the grave

WESTBOROUGH, MA May 24, 2015 It’s time I write a paper about the role of heroin on addiction and the dramatic rise in overdose-related deaths. More needs to be done for people addicted to heroin.  The town in which I live has had three or four young adults die from heroin in the past 12-24 months.  These were real life people who went to school with my children and could be seen in the sports pages excelling on the field of play.  They were high school graduates from great families.  They were attending college.  They had homes or apartments to live in. They had names and faces.

Some heroin users falsely believe nasal Narcan can bring them back from the dead.
There is no shortage of stock photos available to depict this scourge. Each of them leaves me feeling sick.

Heroin addiction is a gripping, life suck that robs and maims anyone who uses it. I am a psychologist but make no claims about helping those suffering from the physical and emotional gird of heroin. There is no bottom to the cycle of addiction for many individuals and their families who often spend a fortune on psychotherapy, rehabilitation programs, 12-step programs, and nasal naloxone. Most individuals trying to kick the heroin habit require 4 or more trips to rehabilitation.

This is the story about Netta and the boy who grew addicted to its insidious lure.  Netta was a term given to heroin or more specifically, the nick name for “the works”.  This refers to the needle, spoon, filter, and lighter used to inject heroin into the vein by someone wanting to party. There can be no party without the works and this boy kept his immaculate. This addict strangely personified his rig as a friend or more importantly, a friend who could bring forth comfort and a rush of euphoria that nothing else can match. He was not one to share needles with others and most often used when alone.  He also knew this friend could not be trusted and expected to die one day perhaps ironically after deciding to get clean and sober.  An overdose can take you to the grave and has done so with a vengeance in 2015 here in Massachusetts and across the country. The man about whom I am writing died recently of an overdose that some believe was intentional.  He had grown tired of the cycle of addiction and pain and sickness.  He died alone.

For many addicted to heroin saying ‘no’ is not an option and becomes a game of Russian Roulette. It does not matter to Netta whether or not you are rich or poor he will take you for all you have.  He will leave you numb and sick and looking at cotton shots for just a little more.  In many states like Massachusetts, police, fire and other fire responders have been trained to administer nasal naloxone.  Arguably, family members too should be given the antidote which can reverse the effects of heroin and other opioid drugs if administered soon enough. That is where the confusion comes in because while naloxone can reverse or eliminate the effects of opioids in the brain it cannot reverse the cascade of organ failure and brain injury associated with oxygen deprivation.

There needs to be some intervention that can help individuals addicted to heroin and more importantly to help them when the urge to party comes up over and over during recovery.  There should be support for their family members so that they might understand the allure and better connect with those who are living a life with friends like Netta.

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