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Heroin: On a Speeding Train to the Depths of Nowhere

answered 11:43 AM EST, Thu March 01, 2012
My boyfriend of 1 1/2 years started doing heroin several months ago. It hasn't been an every day thing, yet. Every time I catch him on it he promises me he will stop. Last night I found a 10 pack of syringes in his room with only 3 left. I was unaware that he was shooting up. What is the severity of shooting up and is he already at the point of no return?

Lita Perna Says...

Lita Perna L. Perna
MA, Family and Community Counseling

On a severity scale of one to ten, with ten being the most severe, your boyfriend is at 20 and his numbers are growing. In other words, the severity of his shooting up is as severe as it gets. You say it hasn’t been an everyday thing yet. How do you know? Can you believe him? And if it truly isn’t an everyday thing yet, it’s almost certain that it will be soon.

You didn’t know he was shooting up. You say you ‘catch’ him on it. What is that telling you? What is he hiding? He promises he will stop every time ‘you catch him on it’. 'Everytime'? What does that mean? What do you think of his promises?

Addicts say they can quit any time, just like your boyfriend. Addicts are often the last one to know there’s a problem or to even admit they have one. Sometimes they’ll see their behavior as everyone else’s problem or your problem, and blame you for accusing them.

Heroin addiction starts with dependency on recreational drug use. Tolerance quickly develops, and users need more of the drug to achieve the same effects. After prolonged use (you say he’s been doing it for several months) physical dependency takes control of the body. Then the addiction takes control of behavior.

Then his behavior takes control of you.

There are different levels of addition and withdrawal. Most people won’t notice subtle heroin withdrawal symptoms after using a short a period of time. They may think they’re feeling a little down or getting a cold. One of my clients didn’t know he was addicted until a friend pointed out to him that his symptoms were actually withdrawal. Usually though, people will notice that they have become addicted between 1 - 2 weeks after starting constant use. After this amount of time, stopping will result in obvious withdrawal symptoms.

Back to your saying it hasn’t been an everyday thing...’yet’. Did you notice you said ‘yet’? What are you expecting? What do you really know that you don’t want to admit?

His addiction sounds like it’s at the point of no return unless he stops. He will probably need professional help to do this. Otherwise, he’s on a speeding train down to the depths of nowhere. He’ll take you with him unless he gets help or you get out.

Tell him this. Mean it. Remember, addiction is often more powerful than love.

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