Teens talk about heroin
Click here to read more stories of the Gazette's series on heroin and its impact on Rock County.
JANESVILLE Ignorance might be spreading the use of heroin.
Consider one 16-year-old Janesville girl who admitted doing a variety of drugs. She told The Janesville Gazette she used to snort methadone, a drug used to treat heroin addicts.
“I didn’t know that it was even related to heroin until this school year,” the girl said.
A 17-year-old Janesville girl also snorted methadone.
“The second I’d come down, I would want it again and again and again,” she said.
The 17-year-old said she had done morphine, too. Morphine is an opiate, derived from the same plant as heroin.
“We didn’t care,” the 17-year-old said. “It was like, ‘We’ve got something—let’s go snort it!’ Freshman year was like a haze.”
Methadone has been linked to deaths across the nation. The Drug Enforcement Agency in 2007 called it a “public health crisis.”
OxyContin, the prescription painkiller, also is chemically related to heroin. Heroin users often get their start with other opiates, and “Oxy” is a popular crush-and-snort drug for local teens, a variety of sources confirmed.
Crushing prescription drugs bypasses the pills’ time-release function for a more intense high, according to students interviewed.
Kids often get their first taste of the drugs from their parents’ or grandparents’ medicine cabinets. Or they buy them from friends.
Lisa, a mother of a 20-year-old heroin addict, said her son started using OxyContin when he was an eighth-grader.
The 16-year-old girl said she has also snorted Suboxone, another drug used to treat heroin addiction. A girlfriend stole it from her mother, she said.
Suboxone was recently linked to two deaths in the Milwaukee area.
OxyContin is addictive, but heroin is a cheaper substitute. So it was a natural for her son to try snorting heroin, Lisa said.
Kids start injecting heroin when snorting doesn’t get them high anymore, Lisa said. Eventually, they don’t even get high, but they have to get a fix just to keep from getting sick.
The 17-year-old said she first started hearing about heroin about two years ago. Before that, the hard stuff was Ecstasy and cocaine, she said.
She said she wouldn’t do heroin: “We know what can happen if we stick a needle in our arm—and they’re choosing to do it, and they’re dragging more people into it.”
It’s hard to deal with friends doing heroin, and yet she can’t bring herself to tell an adult about it, the girl added.
“Even if you try to help them, usually they don’t care, anyway,” a second 17-year-old said.
Verlene Orr, a social worker in the high schools’ anti-drug program called Project SUCCESS, said she hears from students and staff about alcohol or drug problems among students, but not about heroin.
Orr was in the room as the girls were interviewed.
“It concerns me greatly that they’re not coming to our attention,” Orr said of the heroin cases.
Orr said if she gets a tip, she’ll talk to the student to find out if it might be true. If she gets an indication of a problem, she’ll contact the parents and offer options for treatment.
She can’t insist a student get drug-tested, Orr said, but a parent can.
Orr asked the teens whether they would tell someone if they knew of a friend who had diabetes and wasn’t getting help.
They would, the girls said.
Why then, shouldn’t they tell someone about a potentially deadly heroin addiction?
“I think we as a society, and here in Rock County, need to get over that,” Orr said. “If we see people suffering, we’ve got to let them know that we care, and if they’re willing to get help, that we’re willing to be there with them.”