By ED RUNYAN
The influence of a lifelong buddy, who later died from an overdose. Loss of a job from layoff. Stress of attending to a dying grandfather and the influence of a boyfriend.
These are among the triggers three Trumbull County drug addicts say led them to take up a dangerous drug habit.
“The people I was hanging with — my best friend growing up, my friend who died a few years ago of a heroin overdose,” a 40-year-old man said when asked what single thing led him to ignore advice to stay away from dangerous drugs such as heroin, cocaine and oxycodone.
“When you’re under the influence of
alcohol at parties, it makes you braver — liquid courage, I guess,” he said of why he decided to try other drugs besides alcohol.
The man described being a drinker more than 20 years ago when he was a teen, and he continued to drink into his 20s, when he tried cocaine the first time.
“It was an instant love affair because I could drink and not pass out,” he said.
That led to use of crack cocaine because powder cocaine was not always available.
But around the time he was arrested last November for cocaine possession — the charge that brought him to the Trumbull County Common Pleas Court Drug Court — he had lost everything.
“I lost my wife, I lost custody of my child,” he said. Last December, he found himself “wandering around the streets of Warren — no vehicle, no family, no home. I just burned everything.”
It made him decide to change.
“I decided I’m done. I’m tired of hurting everybody,” he said.
Since he started the drug court program in February, which involves substance-abuse treatment and focuses on responsibility and accountability, he relapsed one time with alcohol.
Most of the family members who turned away have allowed him back into their lives.
“It’s a gift,” he said of the opportunity to have his felony offenses dismissed by Judge Andrew Logan of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court at the end of a year or two in the program.
“It’s given me a chance to save my life.”
ADDICTION LEADS TO CRIME
A 36-year-old woman said she started using the opiate Vicodin provided by her boyfriend, who used them for back pain, because “I wanted to see why he liked it.”
The woman also had a prescription for Vicodin because of a broken ankle, but it was for a lesser dosage and didn’t do much for her, she said.
But after using her boyfriend’s pills, she got hooked and then started taking pills from her grandmother. Once she was addicted, she persuaded her longtime family doctor to prescribe more.
Her addiction lasted about a year, until she was arrested for theft, and she’s been clean about a year. She has about five months left before she is eligible to have her charge dismissed.
She thinks there’s a good chance she can get the life back she had before she became an opiate addict.
“I’ve been good all my life,” she said. “I didn’t lie and steal and the things I did to get my pills.”
ADDICTION IN RURAL TRUMBULL
A 32-year-old woman from rural northern Trumbull County said getting caught stealing in order to buy oxycodone was why she finally stopped using the drug. Oxycodone includes products such as OxyContin and Percocet.
She said she became an oxycodone addict because of a factory-job layoff four years ago.
“I started self-medicating because I couldn’t handle all of the things that were happening to me,” she said.
“I had been a productive member of society. I had always worked.”
The woman acknowledges she had been a drinker during her teen years, smoked marijuana and experimented with drugs. But her life changed when she got hooked on oxycodone.
“It ripped my world apart,” she said, describing the loss of her home to foreclosure and the loss of her car to repossession over a two-year period.
The woman said people express a lot of misinformation about addiction — not understanding what withdrawal is like, thinking it’s only an urban problem and not understanding who some of the dealers are.
She failed to kick her oxycodone habit on her own because withdrawal would have prevented her from caring for her children, she said.
“I would rather be in labor than go through withdrawal,” she said. “When you have to take care of your kids and make sure they eat, it’s very hard to go through withdrawals.”
Her parents blamed her addiction on Niles, where she moved after losing her job, but she says the city where she lived isn’t responsible.
“It’s everywhere,” she said. “If you live in the country and you can’t get it, you just drive where you need to get it, but it’s readily available everywhere.”
The image of inner-city men selling drugs isn’t always accurate either.
“A lot of them are elderly people selling their pills,” she said.
In her case, a girlfriend bought oxycodone from the girlfriend’s grandfather. Eventually, she no longer needed her girlfriend to serve as middleman.
“A lot of the elderly are selling these pills,” she said.