Area mother knows the horrors of heroin addiction

Area mother knows the horrors of heroin addiction

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - In a fit of rage, he threw a pan of hot grease at his mother.

It hit the fridge, grease splashing all over the kitchen.

Then, in a blurred frenzy, he smashed a hole through a car's windshield before stealing pieces of jewelry, antiques and tools in his parents' home to pawn.

He was hooked on heroin.

The drug has reached epidemic proportions across the nation. Its effects are being felt along the Grand Strand and the Pee Dee, as lives and families are left devastated.

Once the vicious cycle starts, users will do almost anything to get more heroin to reach that high.

According to Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson, crime statistics in Horry County show heroin-related offenses more than doubled over the past five years.

There were 249 heroin-related crimes in 2010. That spiked to 546 in 2015, according to statistics.

As the crime rates increase, so have heroin-related deaths.

"When I started many, many years ago, we might have a drug overdose - one or two - every couple months. And now it's four or five every month," said Horry County Coroner Robert Edge.

Much of the heroin trafficked into South Carolina is pure, which leads law enforcement officials to believe it is coming from Mexico.

But Edge said the heroin that's killing people is anything but pure.

"In the past, we used to just test to see if there were drugs of abuse, and then wouldn't go any further. Now we're looking to see just what those drugs of abuse are and trying to give law enforcement a better handle on what's going on and what to look for," he said.

The coroner's office started keeping track of heroin deaths specifically since June 2015, when coroners really started to notice the increase.

Since then, Edge has recorded 25 heroin deaths. In 11 of those, the synthetic drug fentanyl was also present. The rest are still waiting on results.

"You know, that's 25 people that passed away that should not have. And that addiction is what caused them to leave us," Edge said.

That man who threw a pan of grease at his mother is just one example of the devastating effects heroin can have on a person.

His mother asked to remain anonymous because her son is relapsing for a third time and dangerously connected to the drug world. She said it all started five years ago.

"He had this really tragic accident," she said. "And that was when he was 15. And when the accident occurred, when he went home, it was such a bad accident that the doctors had him addicted to morphine."

His body was desperate to relieve the pain.

Doctors would only provide prescription drugs for two weeks at a time, worried that he was young and just looking to do drugs. But his mother said that's not like him.

Before the accident, she described him as a good student, a surfer, a diver, a green belt in karate and a member of the Civil Air Patrol.

But during recovery, everything changed. His mom said it wasn't obvious right away what was going on. First, things in the house like spoons, knives, water bottles, aluminum foil, straws, small containers and small amounts of cash started to go missing.

Then, his behavior escalated to lying, arguing, being violent and stealing. Eventually, he stopped eating, sleeping and bathing.

"The change in him was like night and day," said his mom.

Finally, the situation reached a breaking point when he stole all his mother's jewelry.

She started doing some research online and saw that all the signs pointed to heroin.

"So I find these things called heroin slips," she said. "They were all over his room. And a heroin slip looks like it's made out of gum wrappers – very little."

A 'slip' is what heroin is packaged in. They can have different markings or logos on the outside that can tie back to the dealer that packaged it, and can be purchased online.

When the mother realized what they were, she started collecting every slip as evidence. Also, she began documenting her son's lies and every move in diaries and calendars.

"I thought if I could ever get in front of a judge and say, 'On such and such a date he wrecked the kitchen, he threw a pan of grease at me, he put his fist through my china cabinet, he threw a bowl up against the wall, he banged up the car, he wrecked the car,' that could save him," she said.

She called the police and pressed charges on her son for stealing, hoping that it would get him help to break the addiction.

At first, the Horry County Police Department and 15th Circuit Solicitor's Office were hesitant to press charges, she said, because they believed she would drop them since it was within the family.

"And I said, 'No, I want to press charges, because you discipline your children.' He was almost 17 years old, and I'm going to discipline my son. He can't think he can get away with this," she said.

An arrest and court appearance did send him to rehab for 45 days. He quickly relapsed, and his violent behavior was worse than the first time.

The mother hoped if he failed a drug test while on probation, he would be sent to rehab a second time. But he was timing his drug tests so they wouldn't detect the heroin. His mom caught on.

So, this time, she turned her son in after she found the next slip. He failed the drug test.

"I was elated," she remembered. "Because I was like finally, finally we're going to get him some help."

Her son was still high when he signed a document to willingly state he was stealing to fuel his heroin addiction and needed help.

"He doesn't even know what's going on because he …" she paused as she choked back tears. "He had shot up before I put him in the car. His arm was huge. He shot up so much because he knew he couldn't get it anymore."

After two months in rehab, the family was finally back together.

His mom threw a party for the entire family to celebrate his sobriety. She said he was remembering things from his past, like taking karate lessons with his mom that he hadn't remembered in years.

But that happiness didn't last long.

"The heroin addiction is so strong. It's one of the strongest," she sobbed. "The success rate getting clean of heroin is very, very low."

All the warning signs were starting again. She said her spoons are missing, the tips of her knives are black again and all the aluminum foil is gone.

She's finding strips. And he's lying, refusing to eat and his eyes are dark and sunken in.

"There's Band-Aids all over his room," said his mom. "So I think he's shooting up in between his toes again. What people don't understand is when your kid's on heroin, they have great ways of hiding it."

Addicts will shoot heroin anywhere on their bodies that can be easily hidden, like between their toes, fingers, behind their ears, in a leg or in an ankle.

It doesn't always involve a needle. Heroin users can snort it through a straw, inhale it through a nasal spray bottle or ingest it in capsules.

"So now when I talk to him, I'm talking to heroin," the mom said. People say, 'Kick him out. Just kick him out. You know, he's destroying your life.' But you can't, he's your child. And you want to get him help."

She said after the second round of rehab, he's now disappearing for days at time, he's being combative and he's pawned his computer again.

But he says he's not taking heroin anymore.

His mom had to cut an interview with WMBF short, because she got a phone call from her husband saying their son was destroying things in their home again.

With determination in her voice, she said she would continue to track her son, collect the slips and fight to find him help.

"These people are messing with my son, and I'm at war," she said. "And I don't like having to live this way. It's a nightmare. I don't see hope. I see just hell."

For those struggling with a drug addiction or are searching for help for a loved one, the group Narcotics Anonymous has group meetings in the Grand Strand and Pee Dee. Click here to search for a nearby group.

And there are safe locations to drop off prescription drugs for them to be disposed of:

  • Horry County Police Department
  • Conway Police Department
  • Myrtle Beach Police Department
  • North Myrtle Beach Police Department

This is the first in a WMBF News series of investigations on the heroin epidemic. Anyone who would like to share their story or perspective, click here.

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