Monthly Archives: March 2014

Heroin on the Rise: Wrapping It Up

We hope that our “Heroin On The Rise” series has given you some insight into this epidemic that is growing here in our city, as well as around the country. Our desire in writing this series was twofold. First, we wanted it to be educational. That was the purpose behind us telling our story in the first post and then giving some stats in the second. There are people all over our city, and sometimes right down the street, that are living in a world that is completely unimaginable to most of us. It is important for us to know what’s going on for the sake of our children and families. It’s also necessary for us to know the struggle people are facing if we are to follow God’s call on our lives to be good neighbors. That is where our second goal in this series comes into play. That was the purpose behind us digging into the “why” behind the epidemic in the third post and then giving insight into a mother’s journey in part one and part two of “A Mother’s Perspective.”

The truth is, we are all flawed and deeply broken, it just looks different for different people. Apart from Christ we are all seeking to fill the void in our life with something. For some people it’s money. For some it’s sex or relationships. For some it’s reputation and status. And for some, they turn to drugs to mask the pain and fill that void. Their struggle plays out differently and in most cases, it plays out in a much more destructive manner. But at the core, we’re still all the same. We’re broken and flawed people looking for something that can only be found in Jesus. We believe that looking at this issue through this lens allows us to be good, loving neighbors that care for the whole person God has created and loves. That is what drives our tagline: “For the Gospel. For Birmingham.”

If you have any questions about this issue or if you feel like Urban Purpose can help you or a family member that is struggling in this regard, feel free to email Mark Jenkins at mark@urbanpurpose.org.

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Heroin on the Rise: A Mother’s Perspective (Part 2)

As we move to wrap up the series Heroin on the Rise, we want to offer a different, more personal perspective on the effects of heroin. Today’s post is the second part of an article written by the mother of one of our clients who battles a heroin addiction. We hope that her insight will be eye opening and challenging as together we learn more about heroin and the great toll that it takes.

Miss part 1 of this article?

Click here to read A Mother’s Perspective (Part 1)

“We tried to deal with this alone for many years because of the shame and embarrassment. What would people think about our family? What kind of parents are we? What kind of Mother am I? I pray, but I wanted God to swoop in and do what I needed him to do. I had it all worked out, I just needed a little help from Him. You see, I am a fixer, a control freak so to speak. There isn’t much I can’t do if I put my mind to it. But this, this was way out of my league.

Once I realized that I couldn’t fix “this,” and I had to surrender total control to my Lord, things began to change. We opened up to our Lifegroup at church. What a relief that we didn’t have to carry this burden by ourselves. I shared with some of my closet friends. They didn’t think we were freaks or had two heads. They prayed and they cried with us. I felt God’s loving arms so totally around us and knew He was there.

Once I finally understood that this was a battle that our son was going to have to fight, and that I couldn’t “fix” it for him, I felt peace. My heart has been broken into a million pieces for him. I am his Mother, after all. I pray for him constantly that he will have the strength to fight Satan and will surrender this demon to his Heavenly Father.

He is in a long-term Christian drug rehabilitation center. He has had some ups and downs, but that is the life of an addict. I don’t think about tomorrow for him or the next week because it’s just too overwhelming. I just pray each day that he will get through it.

Our family has suffered greatly. My marriage and our other child definitely felt the fallout these past few years of the hell we have been through. But, we are stronger and closer than we have ever been because we have strengthened our relationship with Christ our Savior and our Redeemer. I don’t know how our journey is going to end. I pray it will be with our son’s sobriety, and him giving his testimony about his past days of drug use, and how Christ saved him from Satan’s grip. Whatever his fate, our family gives glory and honor to our God for all the wonderful things He has done, and for the people He has put in our path along the way. Without them, our family would not have made it

Our family looks much different now than it did 20 years ago, 10 years, and most importantly, one year ago. When our children were small,  I never would have imagined we would have been in this situation. I do know there is hope, and I am grateful everyday. Our lives have been transcended because of our relationship with Jesus Christ.”

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Heroin on the Rise: A Mother’s Perspective (Part 1)

We hope that you have found the Heroin on the Rise series informative and eye opening thus far. As we move to wrap up the series, we want to offer a different, more personal perspective on the effects of heroin. Today’s article was written by the mother of one of our clients who struggles with a heroin addiction. We encourage you to take time to read this article. We hope that her insight will be eye opening and challenging as together we learn more about heroin and the great toll that it takes–

 

Sometimes God redeems your story surrounding you with people who need to hear your past, so it doesn’t become their future.  

-Jon Acuff

“I am the Mother of a handsome, smart, and Christian young man who has fallen prey to the devil’s heroin. My son is 25 years old and he grew up in a Christian home where he participated in all things related to our church. From the time he was born until he graduated from high school, he was in the Children’s and Youth Choir, attended mission trips, played the drums in our Sanctuary Praise Band, and was a leader among his peers.

My son attended a small Christian University, where he was awarded an academic and athletic scholarship to play collegiate soccer. During his sophomore fall semester he was admitted into the hospital with some type of auto-immune issue. Stents were put in, to allow infection to drain, and because of the terrible pain he was enduring, he was provided a Dilaudid pump, Morphine, and Percocet. I remember joking with the doctors about him needing drug rehab after this was over.

Little did I know this 16 days in the hospital set in motion what was to become the nightmare our family has endured ever since.

My son didn’t jump into heroin right after he was discharged from the hospital, this happened after a slow progression beginning with marijuana and moving toward that end through prescription pills. I think he told me he had tried just about anything and everything, but once he found heroin, that was “it.” This was the feeling he had searched for since the days in the hospital. Heroin is readily available, someone just has to have the money to get it.

Our lives had been bad with the other drugs, but the heroin addiction totally destroyed our world. My always rock steady son was now stealing from us and taking anything of value that he could pawn or trade for drugs. Last year he hit our bank account a couple of times and wiped us out. This was the heroin. This was not my boy. The lies, the manipulations, it all goes with drug addiction…”

 

Check back here on Thursday to continue reading this mother’s story. 

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Heroin on the Rise: What is it and why is it on the comeback?

A full-blown addiction to heroin isn’t something that develops overnight. Heroin is rarely, if ever, the first drug someone uses. Normally, there’s a progression of drug use and abuse that occurs in a person’s life that leads them down the path to a heroin addiction. According to teens.drugabuse.gov, the most commonly abused drugs amongst teenagers are tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana. After that, the most abused drugs are prescription painkillers. And this is where the slippery slope towards heroin use begins.

According to the website mentioned above, 2.8% of young people between the ages of 12-17 reported abusing prescription drugs in the past month. In a survey of high school seniors, 14.8% reported prescription drug abuse at some time in the past year. Many of the prescription drugs that are being abused are in the opioid family. Almost 50% of high school seniors have said that opioid pills would be easy to find. Herein lies one of the biggest parts of the problem. These are drugs that teenagers can find in their parents’, grandparents’, or friends’ medicine cabinets. They don’t have to go into shady parts of town to meet a drug dealer. They can grab them at home or buy them from a friend at school or down the street. After the fun or “newness” of taking the pills wears off, a common next step is to crush and snort the pills. This often gives the user a different and more intense high. Opioids are effective at impacting our perception of pain and pleasure. They attach to opioid receptors in our body and block pain and, when abused, give the user a euphoric rush.  However, the negative side-affects of abuse show up relatively quickly and include drowsiness, constipation, and respiratory problems.

Heroin is a drug that is made from morphine, which means it is an opioid drug. There are two main reasons users “graduate” from opioid pills to heroin use: it provides a more intense high for a cheaper price. Heroin can be found in a white/brownish powder form or in a black, tar like substance. The powder is either snorted or mixed with water and injected through a needle (which commonly exposes the user to Hepatitis C and HIV). The “black tar heroin” is smoked.

Over time, a serious physical dependency on the drug is developed. If a person tries to quit “cold turkey” or is unable to find/afford their next hit, common symptoms usually include diarrhea, vomiting, muscle and bone pain, and insomnia. This is part of what makes it so difficult for heroin addicts to quit and also makes them so rabid in securing their next hit. Another serious danger is the risk of overdose. Most drugs that are bought on the street are “cut” with other substances. The purity of the heroin someone buys on the street may vary from bag to bag. So, a person may think they’re injecting the same amount they always use, when it reality it is much more potent and their body can’t handle it.

For those that have never battled addiction, it’s difficult to understand the hold drugs in general, and heroin in particular, can have on someone. It’s easy to say or think, “Hey idiot, why don’t you just quit.” If the solution were that simple, we wouldn’t be facing this epidemic.

For many users, it’s so much more than just getting high. It’s about running from the pain, trauma, and abuse they’ve experienced for much of their lives. If you’re constantly tormented by your past and your emotions and you’ve never developed the coping skills to deal with the issues, a twelve hour reprieve from the pain sounds amazing, consequences be damned.  

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Heroin on the Rise: The Stats

In the last post, I admittedly gave you some pretty unscientific data about the rise in heroin abuse, especially amongst young people. In this post, I want to you give you a few official statistics that will help you get your head around how big this problem is becoming.

  • “Coroner’s statistics show the 2012 heroin deaths (in Jefferson County) were overwhelmingly white and male, with 86 percent of the victims being white and 74 percent men. Just five of the victims, 9 percent, were black. Another three — 5 percent — were Hispanic. The median age of the victims was 32.” (http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2013/01/heroin_kills_57_people_in_jeff.html)

From us here at Urban Purpose, to blogs on AL.com, to articles in the Los Angeles Times, you’re hearing that heroin use, addictions, and overdoses are skyrocketing.

As one of the blogs linked above said, “The demographic for heroin use is: your children.” In the next post we’re going to dive a little bit more into the specifics of why more and more young people are turning to heroin as their D.O.C (drug of choice).

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Heroin On The Rise: Our Story

Bon Jovi once sang, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Things have changed a lot over the last several years, but at the same time, things have remained the same. When Jim and I started doing this a little over 4 years ago the main addiction issues we came across were alcohol and crack cocaine. Over the course of the last year and a half our team has become increasingly familiar with heroin addiction, the nasty toll it takes on its victims, and the incredible struggle that goes along with trying to kick the habit.

What used to be a line of primarily 45+ year old men at our Sunday downtown meals has come to include an ever increasing number of those in the their 20s. It is almost guaranteed that if you can get those 20 year olds to open up about what they’re struggling with, it’s heroin. These are young people from all over our city that have found themselves walking the streets of downtown, staying in run-down motels and under bridges, all because of the crippling effects of a heroin addiction. These are kids that grew up and went to high school in the suburbs. We’re talking about Vestavia, Hoover, Spain Park, Pelham, and Homewood kids.

With all that’s changed, at the core, things really have stayed the same. We’re still working with broken, needy people that are running from the issues, pain, and struggles they face on a daily basis. However, some things are very different, things that we as friends and family need to be aware of and on the lookout for in the lives of people we care about. In the next post we’ll dive into some specific things that will help educate you on some of the factors that are leading to increased heroin addiction, especially amongst young people.

-Mark Jenkins

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Video Update

Check out this quick video update to catch up with us and hear some ways you can be praying with us. Here’s a word from Mark on what we’ve been doing lately…

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March 11, 2014 · 6:47 am