Heroin just a start: Progression of an addict


Police in York County blame heroin dependency for an increase in crimes, including retail theft and other offenses, such as prostitution, committed to support the addiction.

Heroin use often progresses with life-destroying consequences:

•It starts with snorting one or two bags per day and grows to five or six per day.

•When the snorting fails to achieve the previous level of high, the user starts injecting.

•Injections increase to as many as 12 bags per day, chasing the euphoria of the first high. The level of addiction is such that the user wakes up violently ill and vomiting from withdrawal.

•The cost of the dependency increases to as much as $200 per day, and users will sell belongings and incur debt to pay for the drug.

•The user runs out of legitimate means to fund heroin purchases and starts stealing from family and friends and pawning the items or trading them for drugs. Retail thefts are common. Relationships suffer, and some become cut off from family.

•Overdoses occur, and some users enter a cycle of checking into rehab and relapsing.

•Some women turn to prostitution to fund the addiction.

•Users run out of areas to shoot heroin as veins collapse, and they're forced to inject themselves between their toes, on their feet and in their stomachs. Dirty needles can cause painful abscesses at injection sites.

•The risk of overdose is high, as are the risks of acquiring HIV and viral hepatitis, and "eventually, your body just gives out," York City Detective First Class Andy Shaffer said.

— Staff writer Christina Kauffman. Sources: York City Detective First Class Andy Shaffer, the National Institute on Drug Abuse