Tag Archives: addict

Did You Know: Drug Poisoning in Alabama

A very common but devastating outcome of significant drug use is drug poisoning (the scientific name for a drug overdose). Sometimes a drug overdose can cause death but other times it causes a state of unconsciousness that the user may come out of.

This detailed map on drug poisoning mortality shows the rates in which people in the United States have experienced drug overdose deaths based on race, geographic location, and age through 2002-2014. [Full map found at http://blogs.cdc.gov/nchs-data-visualization/drug-poisoning-mortality/]

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Did you know that in 2002, the state of Alabama experienced one of the lowest amounts of calculated deaths, which was about 5 per 100,000 people? In 2014, less than 15 years later, that number rose to an average 15 deaths per 100,000 residents. Jefferson County was found to have one of the highest death rates in our state. We have been able to see this statistic first hand over the past few years.

What we have realized is that the city of Birmingham is seeing a drastic shift in drug usage and location. Typically, people would assume to find drugs in inner city Birmingham, but in recent years we have consistently worked with addicts from Over the Mountain areas such as Mountain Brook, Homewood, Hoover, Pelham and Vestavia. Now, the drug scene is more spread out than ever throughout our city and we cannot ignore this fact. We’ve seen that drug use is not always based off of where you grow up or how you grow up- it’s because all people are broken and in search of healing; some of our pursuits of healing just manifest themselves in more outwardly destructive ways.

Over the next few weeks we will further dig into the demographics behind drug use in our city and how it has affected the men and women we’re working with.


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Being Ready Part 5: Community

communityLast week, we once again experienced the battle of readiness.

We were connected with a young girl who had finally come to the realization that for the past five years, her life had been far from normal and that she needed help. She had already suffered from a heavy meth addiction and was only 21-years-old. This addiction partnered with other difficult circumstances and life choices, led her down a path of destruction, instability, and loneliness.

As we began to meet with her, we heard over and over again about how she wanted a different life. What is harder to discern is if someone is willing to put in the hard work it is going to take to successfully get that new life. [This is where most people fall short- they have the desire to change but when the road becomes rough, their perseverance isn’t there.] She had decided that she wanted to go to a rehabilitation program that was out of town. This usually takes time; maybe a week, maybe two weeks, but it is rarely ever immediate. We were left with a choice- how do we temporarily help this girl before she receives the long term treatment she needs? Her immediate needs were things like a home, food, clothing, places to go during the day, things to do at night, and people to be around that were not controlled by drugs. Typically, people who desire help do not have any of these things and therefore do not last long enough to get to where they need to go! But this girl had something going for her that other addicts lack: she had a group of people that were willing to rally around her and help her get to where she wants to go. For six days we had people willing to give their homes, time, food, clothes, families, and more to help give this young girl a chance to succeed in life. Many of the addicts we work with have burned all of the bridges that they once had in their lives. This can leave them feeling hopeless, and that there is no way out of their current circumstances.

We hope to confront that fear of being alone and without hope, and relieve it. The goal of Urban Purpose is to walk beside people who are in difficult situations and help them find their way out of it, so that they may begin to lead the life God intended for them to lead.

We were able to take our friend to a rehabilitation center in Mississippi where she will be for a month (thanks to a partnership with a local church body in Birmingham). After this month, we hope to walk with her during the time of transition into a more normal and stable life. We look forward to the future she has in store!!

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The Facts

Although Birmingham is labeled the Most Bible-Minded City in America (http://cities.barna.org/2015-bible-minded-cities/) the fact is that drug use is still something we face on a daily basis. Surprisingly enough, many times it’s going on in our own neighborhoods. This past weekend an article was written in the Vestavia Voice about the rising of heroin death rates in 2014.

“The heroin-related death rate for Jefferson  County more than doubled in 2014. According to Deputy Coroner Bill Yates of the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office, there were 129 confirmed heroin deaths last year, compared to 58 in 2013. Across the county, the number of deaths from heroin overdose has been rising each year since 2010, when there were 12 deaths. The growth between 2013 and 2014 was the largest single increase since that time. Yates said Vestavia Hills had seven confirmed heroin deaths this year, and the city neighbors other highly impacted areas. Within the city limits of Birmingham, 55 heroin related deaths occurred in 2014. Homewood and Hoover had between six and 10 fatalities.” (vestaviavoice.com)

This is an ongoing issue that boils down to one thing: sin. Please be in prayer for the people in our city that are struggling with this sort of addiction. We also ask that you pray for us; that the Lord gives us wisdom as we deal with addiction issues such as this on a daily basis.

The good news is that people are beginning to recognize that this is something that is right underneath our noses. Now the goal is to learn how to walk beside someone as they deal with an addiction issue while loving them and ultimately pointing them to Jesus.

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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: 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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