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Heroin Use at Age 13

September 6, 2023

Some people start off on the wrong foot. They make a mistake early in life when they’re very young and don’t know any better. Such mistakes can derail a life and haunt them for years. Such was Dan’s story, following the choice he made to try heroin at just age 13.

Drug ARM first met Dan* in 2018, when he was on probation and parole. Aged in his early 40s, he had contacted us for support for methamphetamine use, but his story began long before that.

He was only 12 when his family moved east from a rural town in Queensland to the city. In a new place and with his parents working a lot, he said he was growing up on the streets, running with the wrong crowd, and by the age of 13, he was using heroin.

“A friend had offered it and after one shot, I was hooked,” he said.

As a youngster, he excelled in skateboarding and at one stage represented Australia and was offered a scholarship in America. He was also talented in football.

But given his early dependence on drugs, his life was not going to be dominated by sports. It was going to take a much harder road, one that would take its toll on his physical and mental health and his freedoms.

For decades, Dan says he was in and out of jail for drug-related offences.

“I nearly died in prison,” he said. “I was medicated for six months and in isolation for over a year while withdrawing.”

Out of prison, he said he went to a number of rehabilitation or support programs, but couldn’t respond to their approaches.

“I don’t like authority and many programs put that on you, or they judge you if you attend after boozing,” he explained. “With Drug ARM, it wasn’t like that.”

Dan had finally found support that worked for him. He engaged with us for a long time, as long as it took.

Since reaching out to us in 2018, Dan has completed our Creating Options Program, our Day Rehabilitation Program and stays regularly connected to counselling.

During his engagement, he was able to swap out his use of methamphetamines for cannabis. Then finally made the shift away from illicit substances and is now only using medicinal cannabis.

He has stayed out of jail, still has the love and support of his parents and is in stable accommodation.

Through Drug ARM, Dan had gained the tools, strength and belief in himself to stop using illicit drugs.

“Without my counsellor, I wouldn’t have got as far as I have today,” he said. “She’s been great.”

However, the long-term use, has left him with several serious health issues and it plays heavily on his mind. “The doctor says I won’t live a long life,” he said.

When asked what advice he has for others who are also dependent on drugs, it is apparent he knows the consequences too well.

“You have a choice, you can pull your head in and live longer and healthier… or die,” he said. “Do drugs only if you want to lose everything and go to jail.

“You won’t get sober overnight. Staying off drugs is a challenge, a challenge I face every day.”

Dan knows that his body now couldn’t handle going through withdrawal again. “That haunts me all the time,” he said. “It’s always haunting me…”

Evidence-informed programs like the intensive ones that Dan completed, as well as ongoing, regular, non-judgemental counselling, can make a difference.

If, like Dan, you are ready to rise to the challenge and want to choose health, consider getting in contact with Drug ARM and enquiring about your support options.

*Dan, not the client’s real name. Changed for privacy reasons. Stock images used.

Some people start life off on the wrong foot. They may not be able to change the past, but with the right support and encouragement they can change their future. Volunteer or donate today to help people like Dan.

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