Dear Straight Talk: My friend is smoking heroin. I told her to stop before she gets addicted, but she denies the problem. Her parents hate me and will accuse me of being the cause, so I’m not going to tell them. I don’t know how to get her to stop. She likes a boy in this crowd who uses. — Torie, 17, Stockton
Oston 18, Sebastopol: Two years ago I was heavily into drugs and smoked heroin a few times. Some friends used it regularly. Your first responsibility as a friend, is to be (with love) completely frank about your concerns. If she doesn’t stop, you have a choice: You can stand by as a support system and hope she’ll emerge from this path alive and well. OR, you can be brave and sit down with her parents. I had to face this choice myself, and unfortunately I chose to stand by because I was too afraid to speak to my friend’s parents. Four months later, I lost her.
Marcy 17, Sonoma: She’s probably trying to feel better or forget something. Ask her if she’s having a hard time lately. Addressing the reason behind the heroin might reach her better. Next, show her the dangers of heroin: testimonials, research, pictures of addicts. You must destroy the notion that it’s sexy or cool. If she doesn’t stop right away, tell a teacher, school counselor or family friend. Catching this early is VERY important.
Michael 22, San Francisco: I looked up to my cousin more than anyone. He was charismatic, smart, athletic, super good at everything. Following knee surgery, he was prescribed oxycontin and got hooked. At some point, he switched to heroin and by the time our family did an intervention, he had a $1,000-a-day black tar addiction. I couldn’t believe how bad he looked, his life sucked away. He’s clean now, but not the same person. Every experience I know of with heroin or meth goes horribly wrong. The counselor leading my cousin’s intervention said he’d been off heroin 15 years and thought about it every day. Drop the assumptions about your friend’s parents. If you’re this worried (and you should be), not telling them is wrong. (Besides, they already hate you, right?) Informed parents are a person’s best chance of getting clean.
Dear Torie: Tragic stories abound regarding heroin. Just this weekend, another panelist phoned on the anniversary of her boyfriend’s overdose, sobbing. There is so much $5 to $10 heroin in every school right now — so pure it can be smoked or snorted. The cheap price and accessibility, combined with not needing a needle, is snaring many young people. It is currently the main drug treated in rehab — where the luckier ones end up. Sadly, the morgue and prison are the endgame for many more.
It can be impossible to convince a user of danger, and a romantic entanglement makes things harder. But I hope we have convinced YOU to tell her parents — or other responsible adults who will. Parents don’t know the clues, and they need friends like you! Don’t delay another hour. — Lauren