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  1. chillinwill
    On any given week, a quick read of the Sussex County Prosecutor’s report reveals just how prevalent heroin is in the area. Again and again, police catch people — mostly young — buying, dealing and possessing this drug.

    And it’s not just out-of-towners; it’s not just boys and it’s not just those without options. Reporter Becca Tucker went beyond the reports, getting to know several local youths who told her their stories. She spoke with counselors at a local treatment center and with local police to find out what’s being done to change things

    This is the first of a multi-part series.

    Under the Influence

    Heroin use in Sussex County — a look behind the scenes

    On a Friday afternoon last month, Sparta police arrested an 18-year-old field-hockey-playing honors student after watching her deal heroin from her 1999 Plymouth minivan in the Theatre Center parking lot. The alleged buyers were two 18-year-olds from Sparta and Lafayette. The alleged dealer, a recent Sparta High grad, had over 80 single-dose bags of heroin in her possession, police said.

    It was the biggest bust Sparta police have seen in a while, but it is by no means breaking news.

    “A little over 10 years ago, it seemed like somebody turned on a spigot and, bingo, we had lots of heroin,” Sussex County Prosecutor Thomas Reed said in a recent interview.

    “And it has continued non-stop. The only thing is that lately, when people [in the past] would get caught with a bundle [10 bags], now they get caught with a brick [50 bags]. The general public has no clue how bad it is.”

    How bad is it?

    To understand why kids would get involved with heroin — a drug whose lethal and addictive reputation is known far and wide — it helps to go beyond the headlines.

    What follows is an account of two other young adults who grew up in heroin-flooded Sussex County, found themselves in the same spot and worse, and scraped their way out the other end.

    Raoul Duke’s* hand shakes as he lights his girl’s cigarette. Diamond’s* eyelids open sluggishly as she exhales her first long drag. Their arms are scarred. Their arrest records, too.

    Both grew up in Highland Lakes, Vernon Township, where some of the purest dope in the country is sold. Raoul was a loner who started drinking at 12 because he wanted to be more extraverted. Pot helped him deal with a turbulent home life: his mother is a paranoid schizophrenic and his father had just had the first of three strokes that would ultimately kill him.

    Diamond, two years Raoul’s junior, moved from Passaic to Sussex County when she was 4 and grew up feeling like a black sheep, full of dark disdain, especially for teachers. She did, however, enthusiastically attend family reunions and christenings, where she’d sneak off to the bathroom and empty the medicine cabinets of any pills that said “May cause drowsiness” or “Do not operate a motor vehicle.”

    Where does it begin?

    “There isn’t a young adult that comes in here who didn’t start using between 13 and 16,” said Dr. Philip Horowitz, CEO of Sunrise House in Lafayette. Sunrise House runs an in-patient rehabilitation program. That’s where Raoul went through rehab.

    “Most start out with marijuana and alcohol, then based on brain chemistry, move to more sedating drugs — heroin, OxyContin — or toward energizing drugs,” Horowitz said.

    Diamond, who’s now on prescribed Adderall for Attention Deficit Disorder, stuck to sedating drugs, smoking weed and dropping LSD. “My brain was always going too fast for me to catch up. You never see me doing coke or meth. I always wanted to get down. I never really went too crazy.”

    Raoul, on the other hand, became a bonafide “garbage-head,” existing in a near perpetual state of intoxication on whatever drugs happened to be available: pot, cocaine, opium, then mushrooms, friends’ parent’s prescription drugs, ecstasy and LSD.

    Youngsters who do drugs have been exposed to so many different substances growing up, explained a user from Sparta, that just doing one more doesn’t mean anything.

    Raoul felt he could manage his drug use. He was getting by with his schoolwork, and for the first time, he had a serious girlfriend. It wasn’t until Raoul used crystal meth, purchased by an older friend from a crooked psychiatrist in Manhattan, that he lost control.

    Raoul used meth every day, even on the increasingly rare occasions when he did go to class at Sussex County Technical School. More often he’d go on multi-day benders at his older friend’s crash pad, painting, writing songs and stories and playing chess. He shrank into a 5-foot, 10-inch, 136-pound skeleton with habitually dime-sized pupils.

    One morning the school counselor pulled Raoul out of gym class — where he’d been having a glorious time on crystal meth and mushrooms, playing a game fittingly called speedball, surrounded by bleachers that seemed to him like tiers of the Roman Coliseum - and ordered a urine test. The jig was up. Just three days over the admission age of 18, Raoul was thrown in among veteran addicts at Sunrise House for two weeks of in-patient rehabilitation.
    A rehab stint

    Most of his fellow residents were in recovery for shooting heroin and using other drugs as well, like OxyContin, Percocet and methamphetamine. “Most have gotten way beyond snorting heroin, which means they’ve progressed in their disease,” said Horowitz of Sunrise House, where about 15 percent of patients are from Sussex County.

    That’s the catch-22 of rehab. “You’re stuck in there with all these people who have hardcore habits,” said another young man who went to detox for OxyContin and came home knowing how to shoot heroin. But whatever Raoul learned in rehab — and he likes to insinuate he learned a lot — he says he was disgusted by dope at that point. The joint he smoked before walking on stage to graduate with his high school class was the first substance he’d used in three months, he said.

    Where does it begin?

    “There isn’t a young adult that comes in here who didn’t start using between 13 and 16,” said Dr. Philip Horowitz, CEO of Sunrise House in Lafayette. Sunrise House runs an in-patient rehabilitation program. That’s where Raoul went through rehab.

    “Most start out with marijuana and alcohol, then based on brain chemistry, move to more sedating drugs — heroin, OxyContin — or toward energizing drugs,” Horowitz said.

    Diamond, who’s now on prescribed Adderall for Attention Deficit Disorder, stuck to sedating drugs, smoking weed and dropping LSD. “My brain was always going too fast for me to catch up. You never see me doing coke or meth. I always wanted to get down. I never really went too crazy.”

    Raoul, on the other hand, became a bonafide “garbage-head,” existing in a near perpetual state of intoxication on whatever drugs happened to be available: pot, cocaine, opium, then mushrooms, friends’ parent’s prescription drugs, ecstasy and LSD.

    Youngsters who do drugs have been exposed to so many different substances growing up, explained a user from Sparta, that just doing one more doesn’t mean anything.

    Raoul felt he could manage his drug use. He was getting by with his schoolwork, and for the first time, he had a serious girlfriend. It wasn’t until Raoul used crystal meth, purchased by an older friend from a crooked psychiatrist in Manhattan, that he lost control.

    Raoul used meth every day, even on the increasingly rare occasions when he did go to class at Sussex County Technical School. More often he’d go on multi-day benders at his older friend’s crash pad, painting, writing songs and stories and playing chess. He shrank into a 5-foot, 10-inch, 136-pound skeleton with habitually dime-sized pupils.

    One morning the school counselor pulled Raoul out of gym class — where he’d been having a glorious time on crystal meth and mushrooms, playing a game fittingly called speedball, surrounded by bleachers that seemed to him like tiers of the Roman Coliseum - and ordered a urine test. The jig was up. Just three days over the admission age of 18, Raoul was thrown in among veteran addicts at Sunrise House for two weeks of in-patient rehabilitation.

    A match made in heroin hell

    Most people shed their innocence bit by bit. Raoul and Diamond smashed off a big chunk in 24 hours.

    Raoul had access to his mother’s car. Golden-tongued Diamond had just dropped out of school at 15 and wanted to try heroin, though she’d never done it before. “I just felt this interest,” she said, “like life was never enough for me. There was always something waiting for me around the corner, if I could get out there and see what it was. I didn’t really feel like I had that much of a future. I might as well live in the moment, to the fullest.”

    They drove down to Asbury Park and so began a rather atypical first date. First, their car was stolen by a scam artist posing as a dealer. Undeterred, they spent the day smoking crack and sniffing heroin with a group of dopeheads until sundown, when they were picked up by the police for loitering. The cops called Diamond’s parents, who drove down to pick them up at 3 a.m. When the sun came up, Raoul and his older brother drove back to Asbury Park and ultimately bribed a dopehead to help them locate Raoul’s mom’s stolen car. When they did find it, they also found a bag of crack on the floor.

    They still laugh about that one.

    If this story had unfolded in another state or another decade, the heroin that was shared with Raoul and Diamond might have been 10 percent pure. To get high, a user would have had to inject it, an act less appealing to neophytes, like Raoul and Diamond. But around 1998, the South and Central American cartels purified their heroin to give it broader appeal, and now the dope that floods the greater New York and New Jersey region is as high as 85 percent pure, according to Sussex County Prosecutor Thomas Reed. Now, you can get high by sniffing it.

    *Raoul Duke and Diamond are not their real names. These are names they have chosen to go by for this story.

    By Becca Tucker
    November 12, 2009
    The Sparta Independent
    http://www.strausnews.com/articles/2009/11/14/sparta_independent/news/3.txt

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