John Cunningham may be pumping iron now, but it was heroin pumping through his veins not too long ago. He showed us where he nearly destroyed the vein in his arm from shooting up.
“I could not stop. The years would pass, and I would try. Things just got really bad,” says Cunningham.
A truck accident led to pain pills, then to heroin and then to arrests and homelessness. Cunningham says he overdosed a couple of times and almost died.
And he’s not alone. Heroin causes one in every four overdoses.
In the past decade, its grip has claimed double the number of young adults. And nearly half of all heroin addicts were first hooked on prescription opioid pain pills.
“This is healthcare crisis in our country,” explains John Templeton, an addiction recovery expert at Footprints Beachside Recovery Center.
Templeton says the surge in heroin addicts has followed a crackdown on prescription pill mills. Heroin is cheaper, easier to get, but so much more dangerous.
“Your skin feels like it’s crawling out. It’s the worst thing imaginable that I’ve ever been through,” says Cunningham.
Strung out for ten years, John made it to footprints beachside recovery center where 30 days cost 14 thousand dollars, and typically, patients need to stay longer.
“The life expectancy of a using heroin addict is not very long,” says Templeton.
John’s treatment consisted of at a week of detox, more than 27 hours a week of therapy, physical fitness, and ongoing twelve step support groups.
“They say when you go to treatment if you want to get sober you only have to change one thing; everything,” says Templeton.
John did change everything, but many don’t.
“The biggest problem I see is with families, is that they will enable the person and that doesn’t help them,” says Cunningham.
John has been drug-free for a year. He found a way to work himself out of a terrible place.
The CDC says improvements are needed when it comes to prescribing prescription painkillers. Research shows addiction to painkillers means there’s a 40-percent chance of becoming addicted to heroin.
By the way, John Templeton says many insurance providers will cover the cost of substance abuse rehabilitation treatment.