As part of a series featured on NBC called Hooked: America’s Heroin Epidemic, we are given an in depth look into the lives of people dealing with heroin addiction. One of the features shares the story of a woman you wouldn’t expect, an affluent former teacher and mother.
Michelle hid her addiction for years. As a teacher in Putnam County, N.Y., she eventually got to the point where she was shooting up in the bathroom at her school. As her addiction spiral out of control, she lost her career and she lost custody of her daughter.
Michelle finally hit rock bottom when she was arrested for driving under the influence for the third time and ended up in front of Judge James Reitz, who oversees one of the nation’s 2,700 treatment courts where heroin cases make up 60% of his caseload.
Judge Reitz gave Michelle the opportunity to avoid jail time if she agreed to a two-year treatment program. Michelle took the chance to turn things around. She is currently four years sober and is part of Judge Reitz’s “Drug Court Team.” The former teacher is working towards certification to counsel others with addiction.
Like so many others, Michelle started using heroin after developing an addiction to the pain pill OxyContin. She was using the opioid to treat pain, and switched to heroin, a cheaper and more widely available alternative.
“I’ve seen a huge cultural change with regards to how we view heroin,” said Dr. Mark Logan, a primary care physician and addiction specialist. “There just doesn’t seem to be that stigma that was there even five years ago, that fear. And I think that’s a big part of it. I mean, I’m routinely having patients who when they were 12 or 13 were getting their first exposure to heroin.”
The NBC News series shows us the new face of heroin. Heroin addicts are more prevalent than ever. A growing number of deaths from overdose are solidifying this addiction as a nationwide epidemic. The stereotype of the heroin junkie living under a bridge is no longer the face of heroin. It could be anyone.
The series also examined some other treatment options and the intent of some professionals to work toward a type of rehab rating system so consumers can find out more about the quality of care at individual facilities. Gulf Breeze Recovery prides itself on providing world-class treatment and we are encouraged by the idea of the treatment field continually searching for improved results as a whole.