Addiction does not discriminate

One citizen’s story of unexpected addiction to the nation’s deadliest drug

Jacob Miller remembers the first time he ever tried an opiate—a small, white Vicodin pill offered to him at a high school party.

“I fell in love with that opiate feeling, that down, relaxed feeling. I don’t know, different drugs are for different people, and opiates was for me.”

He was sixteen and addicted. He dabbled in morphine and Percocet next before snorting heroin for the first time. A couple months later, at age 18, Jacob injected heroin with a needle.

“At that point, it really took over.”

For the next six years, Jacob’s daily goal was to get high, and heroin is what took him there.

That party where Jacob tried his first opiate was not unique from others he frequented. At the time, Jacob drank and smoked weed with friends at parties like these often. He wasn’t looking for hard drugs, but eventually, they came up.

“Eventually someone’s like, ‘You want to try one of these? Try one. If you like them, I’ll sell you a couple,’” Jacob said. “When you’re around that drinking and smoking crowd, it comes up.”

Most adolescents, like Jacob, who misuse prescription pain relievers get them for free from a friend who doesn’t realize its danger, according to a 2016 study by the American Society of Addiction Medicine. That same study revealed that four in five new heroin users started out misusing prescription painkillers.

If you would have told Jacob at 14 when he was popping Vicodin that in a few years he would be a heroin addict, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Nobody ever does,” he says. “Nobody thinks when they’re just drinking and smoking weed with their friends…that they’ll eventually be a heroin addict. It can happen though, and it can happen very quickly.”

Jacob believes he was immediately addicted to heroin after snorting it once. His pill sampling shifted to this new substance, it became his addiction, and he could no longer break free by his own struggle.

Heroin is cheaper and easier to access than prescription drugs, which is why many turn to it from pills, but it is immensely more dangerous. Its danger lies in its purity. On the streets, heroin is made with almost 90 percent pure opiates, meaning only 10 percent of it is made with filler ingredients. Users don’t grasp this danger, and they inject more than their bodies can handle, and overdosing is the result.

“We need to identify the issues we have here, in our own backyard,” said Behavioral Health Coordinator Daun Bieda about opiate abuse in the Pokagon community. “I’m saying this because it’s true. I’m saying this because it’s real. I see it every day here, when I come to work.”

Jacob doesn’t have a shocking story about a traumatic childhood to lay blame for his addiction. He wasn’t abused; he grew up with family dinners and abundant Christmases, but still addiction found him.

“It doesn’t discriminate,” Jacob says often. He watched men in suits and ties buying fixes from the same dope men he frequented, young and old. “It happens to people whether they’re rich, whether they’re poor, whether they’re intelligent, or whether they’re uneducated. It happens.”

It happened to him, but his life was far from over and his story far from finished.

Next month, read about the six years of Jacob’s life spent high and on pause.

Read Jacob's mother's perspective here.