The death of Glee actor Cory Monteith is shedding light on what is said to be a growing problem, a new generation of young affluent heroin users. A recent study finds heroin to be the drug of choice for an increasing number of youngsters. The beautiful young lady I spoke with could easily be the fresh young face for a famous make-up line. Instead, she's the poster child for heroin addiction, a habit she's been trying to break for years. "I get a lot of body aches and the chills when I'm trying to quit. Most of the time the only thing that's running through my mind is my next fix," says 22-year-old Andrea.
Andrea has scabs covering much of her body because heroin makes you itch. So she often excessively digs into her skin. "Until I bleed. Until I bleed," she explains as she pulls up her pant legs and shows marks all over her ankles. The 22-year-old has been trying to get off of heroin for two years. "Heroin has ruined my life. It's ruined everything I've ever had," says Andrea. She was only 19-years-old when she first tried heroin, an extremely potent and addictive opiate. "You can die from one shot. It's very scary. It's very scary. I talked to my mom about that last night. I have the most loving mother in the world. Even when I was in jail she was like I'm so glad you're here because now I know you're alive," she says through tears.
The last time Andrea got high? Just yesterday in the parking lot at Riverside Hospital before she checked in. "A part of me hopes that I die. A part of me wants to get through this" explains Andrea.
This is Andrea's seventh trip to drug rehabilitation and her first time here. Dr. Edward Patten is the Director of Detox at Riverside. Dr. Patten says it's so difficult to get off of heroin because addicts actually get sick with nausea, vomiting, chills and much more with withdrawal symptoms. "The major one is your bones ache, every bone in your body. In the old days they would lock you up in a room and an individual would kick their legs trying to get cramps and spasms out, hence the name kicking the habit," Dr. Patten explains.
The doctor says he wants addicts to know help is available. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration there's been an eighty percent increase in teens using heroin since 2002. Dr. Patten says his young patients say they try the drug because it's more expensive than crack so they erroneously believe it's "higher class" but he stresses there isn't anything classy about being strung out on any drug. Dr. Patten says Riverside Hospital's rehab program is state funded so rehabilitation is available for people who can't pay for the treatment.
As for Andrea, she says she wishes she could turn back the hands and save herself a lot of hurt and pain by choosing to stay far away from heroin. "I regret it all. I wish I could take it back".