A story about black tar heroin by our sister daily The Herald that was published in its Sunday paper (and posted Sunday on our website) was startling on a couple of levels. In addition to the immediate danger of another highly addictive drug apparently gaining popularity among local residents, including students, readers may be taken aback by the fact that what’s traditionally considered an urban problem shatters the myth of insulated suburbs.
Looking at it first from a health crisis perspective, it’s critical for the entire community to band together against the use of illicit drugs, particularly any form of heroin, by young residents. Despite outward appearances, people don’t reach full physical maturity by age 18. Most teens’ brains are still developing by varying degrees and using heroin can not only impede the process, but cause damage from which they will never fully recover. Multiply those horrific effects many times over for adolescents.
Parents, teachers, coaches and other role models shouldn’t wait until they suspect teens and kids in their lives are using heroin before showing concern. One tactic might be to expose young people to the ravages of the drug by bringing them to support group and recovery meetings. There, they can hear the sad, frightening stories of those whose lives have been wrecked by heroin. They can see how users appeared to have aged well beyond their years. Even former users who have been clean and sober for years still carry that look of someone who poisoned his or body with a drug that enslaves those who tempt fate. One of the effects heroin and other narcotics have on the brain is that so-called “pleasure” receptors are formed and multiply. These receptors demand more and more of the drug, and users often become a shell of their former selves whose sole purpose becomes obtaining and using heroin.
That’s pathetic in any society. In a community where most adolescents and teens grow up with many advantages, from top schools where parents are heavily involved and access to good colleges, to not having to worry about basic necessities like food, clothes, medical care and transportation, it’s almost astonishing that it’s become an issue.
Again, it’s going to take the entire community to successfully confront this problem. That includes the younger members of our population. No one like to be labeled the “snitch,” but it’s imperative that students not remain quiet if they suspect a peer is involved with illicit drugs, especially heroin.
Speaking up might be unpopular, but that will pass. Better to suffer the temporary fallout of choosing to act rather than suffer a lifetime of second guessing over whether or not you could have saved a life.