“It grabs you by your balls and never lets go.”
That’s how Scott, who is trying to shake his heroin addiction, sums up his fight with heroin. City Pulse is not using Scott’s last name because he has recently used the illegal drug.
The 37-year-old Lansing area resident has been fighting with the drug for a decade. And he is one of many Ingham County residents struggling with what law enforcement and public health officials have called a “surge” and “epidemic” of heroin use.
In the first six months of this year, Linda Vail, head of the Ingham County Health Department, said emergency first responders applied the drug Narcan, which immediately reverses the effects of opioids on the body, 132 times. That’s nearly double the 68 applications of the drug in the first six months of last year.
While Scott struggles with other drugs and alcohol, it is the heroin that he finds the most difficult to overcome.
“I don’t know what it is about this drug, but it is able to swallow your whole life instantly.” he said.
He said he was introduced to opioids by an ex-girlfriend. At the time he said he was already struggling with marijuana and alcohol. But the Vicodin she gave him made him feel euphoric.
Soon, another friend introduced him to heroin. She stuck a needle in his arm and injected the drug. “It just took every ounce of stress that I had and released it for just 10 minutes, 20 minutes. It was the best feeling I ever had,” he said. “Heroin, ain’t no joke. Nothing funny about that.”
While injection is the fastest way to get the drug to the brain, Scott said his preferred method of taking the drug is snorting it. He said he can’t inject himself, and shows a lump on his hand resulting from a recent attempt to inject the drug. But he was not opposed to others shooting him up.
That included an ex-girlfriend who was a phlebotomist by training who would shoot him up, he said.
After spending half his life in and of prison and jail — all on charges related to his drug and alcohol use — he said he is ready to be sober.
The struggle to get there, however, has been rough. It’s included two overdoses. The first happened in his home, where he lives with his mother, herself in recovery from substance abuse. She came home and found him not breathing, he said. As the police and ambulance were arriving, his three children, all in their pre-teen years, arrived home.
First responders treated him with Narcan. He was transported to a local hospital, seen, and released shortly thereafter.
His second overdose happened in the Ingham County Jail. Another prisoner gave him his prescription methadone. That drug is often prescribed to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms heroin and opioid users experience as they are trying to ween off the drug.
“I got ahold of some methadone,” he said. “I don’t remember nothing but that I woke up in the ambulance.” Paramedics had inserted a tube in his throat to help him breath “[The medics] said I was dead. They said I was pretty much dead.”
He said wants to recover so he can care for his children. Their mothers are not in the picture for a variety of reasons.
I need it. I don’t want to die, soon,” Scott said. “I know if I keep on the trail I am going to die soon. I am 37 years old and I am pretty healthy but that could change in an instant.”