Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The first time I shot up was in my high school bathroom just before the bell rang

I rarely talk about my job.

Random person: Oh and what do you do?

Me: Research at the University.

Random person: Research, really? On what?

Me: Drugs mostly.

Random person: Oh, like clinical trials?

Me: No, like crack cocaine and heroin. I interview drug users and dealers.

Random person: oh…

[inevitable end to conversation]

When I was in high school, I thought that heroin was THE WORST drug imaginable. I assumed it was limited to the likes of killers and street junkies. I had seen my share of toke-toke-pass and even heard fleeting whispers of cocaine amongst the kids who rarely showed for class. In college, I passed on hallucinogenic brownies and handed some friends water while they spun out on Ecstasy at a rave one summer where my car windows were shattered and all of my coveted CD’s were taken. My dad was a cop, and I, the typical cop-daughter. Feeling enforced, pushing boundaries. I chose to rebel with ink and words as opposed to mind altering substances – but always kept an open mind on the subject. I felt I was not entirely ignorant to the presence of drugs in society, and even my own social networks, but never to the extent of seeing paychecks or needles wasted on the next hit.

Three years ago, one of my first interviews was with a 21-year-old white male. He was dressed in an Abercrombie & Fitch fitted shirt and ripped jeans. His feet were tanned and he wore leather sandals. His fingernails were clean and his hair was styled in a metro sexual sort of way. I could have mistaken him for an upperclassman in the halls of any suburban high school. He had been using heroin intravenously for three years. He shot up with his dad, who had “graduated” to heroin after struggling to afford the prescription painkillers he began abusing after a car accident years earlier.

I stared at the pair of them, before my eyes sat heroin users who were indistinguishable from any other suburban father and son you’d encounter buying chips at your local grocery. To them, heroin wasn’t for killers or street junkies – it was sitting on their living room coffee table next to a syringe, a lighter and a blackened spoon from the kitchen drawer.

And three years and hundreds of faces later – I am STILL taken back that whispers of heroin in the halls of Midwest high schools are as common as Snow Peak Peach flavored Boons.

I am disgusted by society’s glamorization of AOD rehabilitation.

I am amazed at the overdose rates of prescription opiates.

I am confused by the overwhelming prevalence of Hepatitis C.

I am appalled that the state continued to cut funding to Alcohol and Drug addiction services ONE DAY after a front-page feature article in the NY Times and another a few pages back both discussing the commonplace of heroin in the heartland.

These are all the reasons it's easier to just not talk about work.

1 comment:

Jennie! said...

Drugs are bad, mmmkay?

The thing about heroin being in high schools kills me. I wouldn't have known where to get heroin when I was in high school (although, I was pretty naive, so that may have something to do with it).