Last week I was working in the newsroom when someone I’d met a couple quarters ago at the smoke huts passed by the window. We recognized each other immediately and he came in to say hello. I knew what was going to happen next before I even asked, “How you doing?”
“I’m dope sick. I’m going to throw up. Walk with me; come walk with me.”
I have a best friend badly addicted to heroin. You can see it in a person’s eyes, every time.
I walked with him to the bathroom. He entered a stall to throw up, all the while shaking uncontrollably and scratching himself. Afterwards I walked with him around campus for a bit. Turns out he had left his class because he was too high and was going to be sick.
As we were walking he admitted he’d forgotten my name; after telling him he asked if I had remembered his. I did, and I told him what it was. The look of pure confusion I witnessed come across his face is one which I will never forget. After a moment’s pause, he turned to me and nodded, acknowledging I was correct.
“Oh yeah, sorry, I had a hard time remembering that for a moment.”
He’d forgotten his name.
He asked if I remembered someone else I’d met at the smoke hut. They supplied it for the two of them to smoke earlier that day before they went to class. They smoked it in his “friend’s” car, in the campus parking lot.
“We’re friends. We hang out and smoke and stuff.”
Friends don’t let friends smoke heroin.
It’s a poison that eats away at those who use it, and everyone around them. To offer someone heroin is to hand them a death sentence. It will kill you. And in the process, erode away everything and everyone you ever loved. When you think addiction, the general public seems to instinctively refer to nicotine or caffeine as it is those which the media often hype and, in turn, we most often complain about. Those are a mere joke, and are ghostly pale in comparison to that of heroin.
Heroin goes against every rational, natural instinct geared towards survival. It is irrational to think you can control it. Heroin controls you. One hit, the very first hit, and you’re back craving it within hours. Your body now needs it, and if you don’t oblige the instant physical addiction, your own body makes you sick until you do oblige. Quitting cold turkey doesn’t work, and is in fact dangerous to attempt; the withdrawal “sickness” can literally kill you. But short of getting arrested, there is no way to force an adult to clean themselves up. No friend wants to see their friend go down like that. No friend wants to see their best friend go to jail, and at the same time, no friend ever wants to bury one of their own.
So what do we do? What as human beings, as friends, as family of these sick people, can we do?
When I was a teenager, my parents and teachers told me I would someday come in contact with these kinds of things. I merely brushed it off, because everyone thinks, “It won’t happen to me.” If only I could go back in time and let the younger me know how foolish I was to hold that mentality. The reality is, heroin addiction is a problem happening all around us. Society is simply turning its head the other way and letting these people die.
It isn’t a distant, removed problem. This kid is sitting right next to you in your classes and you aren’t doing anything. This idea that “I’m only here for a short while to get the credits I need, so I’m not going to bother myself with the problems present on campus” is inherently selfish and indicative of larger scale societal ignorance that allows the problem to perpetuate.
These people require community outreach. I don’t have the full answer, if I did, I’d like to think my friend would no longer be using heroin, nor would that man who passed by the newsroom window. But what I do know is we can no longer refuse to do anything at all and pretend the problem isn’t there. The problem is very real, and it is present on campus. If your best friend was addicted to heroin, would you not stop at anything to save them, to allow them another chance at life?