Tag Archives: heroin

Addressing Addiction in Alabama


On January 12, 2016 President Obama delivered his final State of the Union speech and specifically mentioned the rising problem of prescription drug and heroin abuse. Earlier this month, AL.com published a call the President made to Alabama concerning this epidemic and the toll it’s taking on our state.

President Obama said:

“As the use of prescription drugs has increased over the past 15 or 20 years, so has their misuse – as well as the wreckage caused by other opioids like heroin.  In fact, four in five heroin users started out by misusing prescription drugs, and then switched to heroin.  As a consequence, between 2002 and 2013, the rate of heroin-related deaths in America nearly quadrupled.  More Americans now die of drug overdoses than they do in motor vehicle crashes.  In Alabama, overdoses claimed 723 lives in 2014 alone.”

He went on to explain that none of us are immune from this becoming part of our lives. It does not matter what profession you are in, what area of town you reside, or how much money you have, drugs do not respect socio-economic bounds and can affect all people in all places.

This is not about a specific political party or an agenda; this is about real people that are struggling to hang on to their lives before losing it to drug addiction. Regardless of your opinion on the President and his politics, the fact that our state specifically received his attention regarding this issue speaks to the significance of the epidemic we are facing.

President Obama closed with this:

“This is a crisis that could touch any of us. These kids are our kids. These folks are our parents; our brothers and sisters; our neighbors and friends.  We should treat them that way. We should take on this issue for their sake.  And if we do that, we’ll not only help our loved ones, we’ll help strengthen our families, our community, and our entire country.”

This is an issue we can all agree on. The people around us that are succumbing to addiction are moms and dads, sons and daughters, and as Jesus taught us, they’re our neighbors. They aren’t to be thrown on a trash-heap of people that most of society sees as worthless or unsalvageable. However, we know that loving them well can be extremely difficult. If you ever have any questions about an issues you or your family is facing or about how we might be able to help, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us: Contact Urban Purpose.

Read the article that was published on AL.com here: http://www.al.com/opinion/index.ssf/2016/02/president_obama_its_time_to_st.html





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One for the Books

Sunday was a great day. It was a day full of surprises, excitement, hopefulness, encouragement, and rejoicing. Sunday was a day to remember.

You see, since the spring of 2014 we have been closely walking with a man in his 20s who struggled with a severe heroin addiction. Throughout our time together we were able to provide him with housing, medical assistance, financial budgeting and loans, steady counseling, transportation, employment… and pretty much anything else you can think of. Even after failing over and over again, we chose to show him grace (but trust me, this was not always our first choice).

Eventually, things got to a point where we did not have any other healthy options to offer him. He had been given many chances- from jobs, to housing, to failed drug tests- he had run through them all and we were at our ropes end. We realized that at that point he needed much more intensive 24-hour care than we could give him. So now he was left with a choice. He could either choose to admit himself into at least a 3 month recovery program, having us walk with him during that time, and continue to move forward with him upon completion of the program or he could choose to completely part ways with us. Of course, the latter  is what none of us wanted, but it was the only way to help him see that a drastic change had to be made in his life.

Over the next couple of weeks, we saw everything take a dramatic shift in this man’s life. He went from having a fairly stable life to having the walls of that life come crashing down around him. Overtime he saw the necessity that was for a guy like himself, and became willing and wanting to get into a program. With the help of our ministry partners, we were able to get in touch with a great rehab program in town and after just one week, he was in. For the first month he was in, he was visited by a number of people and we were encouraged by the progress he had already made and the direction he seemed to be heading.

But then this past Sunday happened. As we drove into the Terracon parking like we do every single week, we saw him standing to the side with a few of our volunteers. Needless to say, we were all holding our breath waiting to figure out why exactly he was here. The first thought that came to my mind was- he’s been kicked out. But man was I wrong!

For the rest of the afternoon we were able to hear stories of confession, repentance, asking for forgiveness, and thankfulness for what all had been done for him this past year. He talked about having a relationship with Jesus and spending time with other believers. All of this coming from a man who just a few months ago made the comment: “I’m just an addict and that is never going to change.”

Sometimes it’s easy to get going in our normal routine and forget that we serve a God who is anything but normal.

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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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Stories That Have Shaped Us: The Needle

It was really painful for her. It was difficult. As tears ran down her face and fell to the ground she told me she had something that was not good for her that she must give to me. She turned and walked to a chest of drawers and reached into a drawer. I couldn’t see what she pulled out as she turned toward me. The closer she got go me, her crying turned to whaling. Slowly trembling, she extended her hand and placed the item in my hand. She collapsed into a chair and continued crying loudly saying, “Why did I give it to you?”

I looked into my hand and dropped the item on the ground and as I lifted my foot to crush it her crying became uncontrollable.

It’s obvious that this item had great value to her. It gave her, in her mind, some kind of peace. It allowed her to not feel the deep-seeded problems in her life that were causing her so much pain.


Her item was an empty syringe; she used it to shoot heroin. This probably seems pretty crazy and extreme to most of us. I know it seemed that way to me, but the more I thought about it, the more it hit me. We all struggle. We all have that “thing” in our life. What’s that thing that’s not good for you that causes you concern or maybe even brings you great pain to even think about parting with? It’s really as simple as this: we hold onto the sinful things in our life thinking that we gain some kind of comfort or peace from the very thing that is actually destroying us. A lot of the times we even like it, which makes it even more difficult to release.

When we first sin it doesn’t seem that bad. It doesn’t see like that big of a deal. But the devil can take our little dabble in sinful things and grow a full-blown addiction or worse. Sin at any level destroys us. It separates us from our God. And we simply can’t afford that separation. And that separation will never lead to peace.


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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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