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Intersections: An exploration of the local impacts of heroin use

May 08, 2012|By Liana Aghajanian

Seven years ago, an 18-year-old La Crescenta man was prescribed Vicodin after a routine surgical procedure. The prescription was all it took for a blossoming painkiller addiction to comfortably settle in.

In 2009, when the pills became too expensive to procure without a prescription — sometimes going for up to $80 a pill — he tried heroin for the first time at the age of 22.

He agreed to be interviewed about his experiences on condition that I withhold his identity.

The overwhelming feeling, the rush of the opiate wading through his veins and the clarity he felt while taking it was indescribable, he said. As cars whizzed by outside a seaside coffee shop, he tried to explain the incredible sensation for which heroin addicts often have difficulty finding words.

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“The best possible way I could describe is it's like a full body massage,” he finally said, where any sort of tension taking refuge in your muscles and mind is completely released.

He immediately fell in love. The love was devastatingly deep, the kind of love you couldn't escape, the kind that you didn't want to, even as everything — relationships, finances, health, the future — crumbled around you.

It was a love that led to lying, stealing and trips to a downtown L.A.'s Skid Row in search of his next high. It was a brutal infatuation that brought on homelessness, a love lost, a stint at a mental hospital and the self-loathing memories of weaving in and out of emergency rooms in a last ditch effort for a fix.

A brick was found, a wrist was smashed, paperwork was filled out after an award-winning performance and the painkillers, ready to numb his physical and emotional pain, were just minutes away. When his name was called in the waiting room, he could almost feel the endorphins rush to his brain, his appetite whet with the promise of drugs and a warm place to sleep.

He knew what was happening, he said, and that he was turning into “that person,” but he couldn't do anything to stop it — the indiscriminating qualities of drug addiction.

He wasn't the only one.

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