Heroin kills an average of three dozen to four dozen people annually in Nassau County, according to police statistics. Hundreds more are arrested for possession or dealing. What you learn in interviewing addicts is that most have dealt heroin to support their habits. How else could they afford a $250-a-day addiction?
According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
, there are more than 335,000 heroin users across the country. This is nothing less than a crisis.
I went to the Long Island Crisis Center in Bellmore
last week to interview a volunteer telephone counselor who hears many heroin addicts’ stories. These are young men and women on their last legs, many of whom are ready to commit suicide. The counselor asked to be identified only by his first name, Neal. Counselors never reveal their identities to callers.
Neal, a retired social studies teacher, described the influx of heroin-related calls that he has received in the past year. “They’re at a point where they recognize that they have to do something, but they have no idea what to do,” he said. Many cry as they speak. “I just can’t take it anymore” is the most common refrain Neal hears.
Many, if not most, have lost their families, friends and jobs. One heroin addict began using after he got hooked on prescription painkillers following a knee operation. Other addicts are teens –– kids –– who wanted to relieve their boredom and live what they believed would be exciting lives.
LICC counselors listen. They do not judge. And they refer callers to government and private treatment agencies where they can seek help.
Neal noted that there is no such thing as kicking a heroin habit. It is a lifetime addiction that can only be managed –– never truly defeated. You only need look at Philip Seymour Hoffman to understand this truth. He died of an overdose at age 46. He started using heroin in his early 20s. Then he sought treatment and stayed clean for two decades, according to The Washington Post.
He died in the bathroom of his Manhattan apartment with a needle stuck in his arm. He reportedly had 50 bags of heroin.Where to seek help for heroin addiction
•Peninsula Counseling Center, Chemical Dependency Treatment Services, 50 W. Hawthorne Ave., Valley Stream, (516) 872-9698.
• Confide Counseling and Consultation Center, 30 Hempstead Ave., Suite H-6, Rockville Centre, (516) 764-5522.
• Tempo Group Inc., 112 Franklin Place, Woodmere, (516) 374-3671; and 1260 Meadowbrook Road, North Merrick, (516) 546-9008.
• Long Island Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, 114 Old Country Road, Suite 114, Mineola, (516) 747-2606.
• Long Island Crisis Center, www.longislandcrisiscenter.org; 24-hour crisis hotline (516) 679-1111.
Scott Brinton is senior editor of the Bellmore and Merrick Heralds and an adjunct professor at Hofstra University's Herbert School of Communication. Comments? SBrinton@liherald.com or (516) 569-4000 ext. 203. Follow him on Twitter @ScottBrinton1. His column will alternate with Jerry Kremer’s and Tom Suozzi’s.