Last updated: March 31. 2014 11:22AM - 967 Views
Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times

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WELLINGTON, Ohio — The demon called heroin nearly destroyed April's life.

But with the help of her sponsor and after two relapses, this month she celebrated a year clean.

“It's not easy but it's beyond worth it. I don't have to wake up sick anymore,” she said.

“These are happy tears,” the 19-year-old said, choking back a sob. “It's wonderful. I wouldn't trade it for the world because I don't have to be alone. I don't have to be alone anymore.”

April is a senior at Wellington High School. Even though she knows many people will recognize her photo, April asked that her last name not be used. Because addiction is such a sensitive subject, yet one that has incredibly deadly consequences, we agreed.

April said she knows taking heroin could have killed her. It kills an average of five people in Ohio every day and one American every 19 minutes.

But no one is thinking about statistics when they start taking drugs.

April was just 16 when she was prescribed a single pain pill for recovery from a medical procedure. Soon she had a craving for more and found a friend at school who would give her heroin.

That first time she took the drug, April said she knew it was wrong. Yet, she couldn't stop obsessing over having it again.

Soon she was using everyday.

The habit was easy for her. Because she was friends with a dealer, she could get her fix for free.

When that friend wasn't around, though, April said she'd “freak out” without her heroin. She couldn't even go to family functions without using or without the promise of getting high.

“If I didn't have it, I was really mean. I'd throw up. I'd go into withdrawal,” she said. Admittedly, she did her best to make life for everyone around her a living hell.

“I knew I had to give it up when I saw what it did to my family,” she said.

Saying she'd go sober was one thing. Doing it was another.

After her first stay in rehab, April bought marijuana almost immediately. She quickly relapsed to heroin.

Three times she sought help.

The third time, it stuck. Still, there were long, difficult months fighting the urge to seek out heroin again, April said.

Today she is talking about her addiction even though there is a strong stigma against those who are afflicted.

More than two-thirds of American families have been touched by addiction, yet there's still little understanding that it's a clinical condition, a disease of the brain.

It's a prejudice that Joel Reichlin of Lorain County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services encounters all too often.

He said treatment options are desperately needed. The problem is that government funding in the so-called War on Drugs is moving away from treatment and more to enforcement.

“There has to be a place where people can go who are addicts,” he said.

Prevention also needs to be more of a priority.

All too often the public tends to only react when they see the devastation caused by drugs, Reichlin said, when more should be done to convince young people how dangerous heroin, marijuana, and alcohol are long before they consider experimenting.

The younger a child is when they first use drugs, the more likely they are to become addicted, he said.

That means getting the message out as early as possible is crucial.

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