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A Heroin Addict Critiques Drug Education in Schools

I interviewed a friend who has been a heroin addict for the last 20+ years I have known him, about his life with heroin addiction. He said that the schools duped him into thinking he could not get addicted to heroin, because they lied about pot, and mushrooms, and everything else...
A Heroin Addict Critiques Drug Education in Schools
By Kirsten Anderberg (

One of my very close friends has battled with heroin addiction our entire adult lives. Since 1979, I have watched this friend twist and turn, hosting heroin as an alien eating his own body, as if possessed by a demon that was part of him, so ripping the demon out was always a bloody mess. I deeply love this person. I have never judged his situation, but rather have always just had empathy and thought, "There but by the grace of god, go I." I understand his pain, I understand his need for relief. I understand his dilemma on some days of suicide or heroin, with heroin being the safer and more responsible of the two choices. We were both kids wandering the streets of Seattle as teens when he fell into the grips of drugs so tightly as to literally scare me at the sights. It may well be watching his addictions that kept me from going there. I asked him some questions recently about his life dealing with heroin addiction, as I feel we need to document our life experiences more than we do, so we can learn from one another. My friend said, regarding his motive for this interview, "Let other people make your mistakes for you."

This man, let's call him "Jed," is a very sensitive soul, while looking like a big snarling biker on the outside. His morals were so high when we were teens, that he bugged me at times with conscience. He has a sparkling sense of humor, and is no idiot. I knew part of why he was a drug addict was due to his hypersensitivity as a child and teen, and many of the traumas he had suffered. I asked Jed how it is he got into heroin, even though he had heard it was dangerous and addictive. He said it was all based on really bad drug education in school. He said they would bombard the kids with all these lies about the horrors of drugs. They would say if you smoked pot, you would "throw children into fires." He said the drug "education" that he got in school was so "over the top," that it rendered every word they said useless. He said when he first smoked pot, and it was nothing at all like they said, then the same thing happened with mushrooms and acid, then other things, and it was not long until he did not believe what they said about heroin as well. He did not believe you could get addicted to heroin *because* they said you could get addicted to it in school, and everything else they had said about drugs in schools was a lie. He said that, unfortunately, the one part they did tell the truth about, was the lack of glamour and depths of lows that heroin can take one to. But how would he have known?

Jed said there is a problem that people who have not done drugs do not know what they are talking about when it comes to drugs. And those are often the people trying to create and facilitate drug education programs. He said you do not know what the truth is if you have only read books about drug use. He said a more realistic view is complicated, but that it is a disservice to our youth to give them such faulty and misleading, and potentially dangerous, information as is occurring at most schools. He said that "kids know when they are being bullshitted, and then once they are bullshitted a few times, they get wise, and no longer believe you." Even when you are telling the truth about how painful heroin addiction can be. Jed said he started doing heroin when he was young, rebellious, and impulsive, and that in his early 20's, he did not believe much of anything anyone said.

Jed said heroin has served many functions in his life. First of all, it is a pain killer, and he commented that means *emotional* pain too. He said he likes the feeling it gives him, honestly. He said it helps him sleep, and when he was young, it helped him cut down on drinking as he was an alcoholic too. He said in his youth, it seemed like fun, and that a new world was opening up to him, but in the end, the cost was too high and dangerous. He said he has seen people, including himself, make the stupidest mistakes of their lives while loaded on heroin, including accidents, fights, and the ending of relationships. He himself has almost died on floors of public places while doing heroin, and he has watched others die from it. He said the worst problem he had with heroin, is that his high morals would fly out the window in the face of heroin's demands on him. He said he would do something he hated doing, like stealing something from someone he knew, to support his addiction, then he would feel so guilty when he came down, that he would need to get high again to blot out the guilt, and it was very circular, and demanding, after a while.

I asked Jed why some kids got addicted to heroin and others did not. He said that the stigma of injecting needles into themselves turned a lot of kids off from it. (Although heroin can be smoked or snorted, so this does not really do the trick). I asked him what could have stopped him from becoming addicted to heroin. He said he really did not know. He said it may be that nothing would have prevented him from getting addicted to it. He said part of it is kids need responsible education, not fictionalized drug education. He said that kids need guidance and role models. When I asked who he felt good role models were, he was not quick with answers. He said he needed to think.

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