This is what heroin addiction does to a person long term.

What heroin addiction really looks like

I took the phone from her as she left. “How are you doing?” I said.

“I don’t really know how to answer that,” Garrett said. He looked lost. Sad and angry at the same time. Trapped. He had deserved to go to jail in the past, he said. This was the first time he didn’t deserve it. He wouldn’t get better here, surrounded by inmates with drug connections. About two-thirds of men and women in local jails nationally are estimated to be using or dependent on drugs or alcohol.

It might not have seemed like it to others, but he had been doing well for him. He had started college. He had kept a job until he started school. With an adult record, he’d have trouble finding a job, an understanding community. He’d have student loan debt he wouldn’t be able to repay.

His probation conditions undoubtedly would prohibit him from using again — rules at odds with the reality of addiction where relapse is common, just as it is with other chronic illnesses. Even if he could find a good treatment program with an opening, he’d need to balance it with a job to pay off the restitution he owed for previous offenses as a juvenile — or face ending up in jail again. And the substance that righted his brain and connected him to his friends? No more.

“This is the only time I’ve seriously contemplated ending it,” he said. “I’ve never, ever felt this weak in my life.”

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