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Steve Novotney Says, "It Is That Powerful"

How bad is heroin?

So, I heard a story recently about a hospitalized woman who needed surgery to survive, and during her time at the facility the staff discovered that she brought with her everything she needed to facilitate her addiction to the opioid.

Spoon. Lighter. Heroin. Syringe.

It's that powerful.

One of my friends is a recovering addict, but she knows she'll never be recovered. Also, a former smoker who had quit a few times before finally being done with the habit (She hopes,) told me that the yearn for another hit of heroin is greater than what she felt when tempted to smoke again.

It's that powerful.

Another friend, while he attended a local college, found himself needing to shoot up in between classes and did so in a public restroom. On one occasion, he explained to me, the drug was more powerful than usual and caused him to pass it out in the toilet stall.

For. Three. Hours.

Because it is that powerful.

Heroin addicts, I understand, steal from their families and from complete strangers; they break into homes and businesses; they quit paying their mortgages and plead for money along roadways; they sell their cars, their TVs, and they beat up old ladies for their purses; and they tell their own mothers to $&% off when they are tired of hearing the truth.

That's because of what they feel during withdrawal because heroin is that damn powerful.

The epidemic is, unfortunately, an easy one to map out. It started with pill dumps in the Mountain State, and then once a crazy increase in oxy-related overdoses was recognized and made harder to access, the cheaper option – heroin – became the abuse of choice. But (And there are a lot of "buts" when discussing this topic.) heroin is bought off the street and never, ever do buyers know exactly what they are purchasing.

Is it 40 percent potent? 60 percent?

Is it laced with Fentanyl?

Is it deadly?

Because that's how powerful heroin can be.

My friend Amy, who has been on the radio show a couple of times to help explain why she was an addict for several years, ultimately put down the needle for the final time because of her last experience. She was in her kitchen; she melted the heroin, sucked it into the syringe, and shot up.

Then she collapsed and felt her eyes roll up into her head. Amy thought she was about to die.

She did not, but it scared her to the extent she was done with it. Finally, after stealing from her sister and parents for years and creeping the streets of the valley searching for her next fix, Amy checked into a rehabilitation facility outside of Youngstown, believing she wanted to be done instead of just trying to fake her way through after sneaking opioid pills in with her.

We didn't lose Amy, thank God, but we have lost hundreds in this Valley, on both sides of the Ohio River, to heroin alone, and drug sweeps in Ohio, Marshall, and Belmont counties reveal the intent to sell the highly addictive narcotic continues to thrive despite harsher penalties, added recognition and attention from law enforcement, and more concern from the populous.

The demand is there because it is that powerful.

For some it begins with an injury for which they get prescribed an opioid painkiller or for others because of a "Skittles Party" during the high school days; and some discover heroin because of their friends and peer pressure. They tell me the first time is the best time because it's always the highest high, but the abuse continues because the body yearns, even hurts, for more and more and more.

But heroin is not a new narcotic; not like cocaine was in the Wheeling area in the late 1970s; not like crack was in the 1990s. It is manufactured from the opium poppy, and in 2015, according to the National Drug Study 2016, 66 percent of heroin was produced in Afghanistan in 2015 and was trafficked into the United States through Mexico.

It is the cheaper option, too, compared to purchasing pills off the streets here in the Upper Ohio Valley, so that is why local first responders are now carrying Narcan with them when answering emergency calls.

And an overdose has become an everyday occurrence.

Because it is that powerful.