News: WLKY, May 6, 2014

The changing face of heroin abuse: Martha's Story

UPDATED 8:05 PM EDT May 06, 2014
Heroin has been making headlines in the United States as more and more people find themselves addicted to the dangerous opiate.

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Years ago heroin was dubbed the "vice of the underworld," but that is no longer the case.

A younger population is discovering heroin and its grip is proving to be deadly.

Martha Williams spent several years snorting and shooting heroin. It's a demon she's desperately trying to overcome.

"It was the worst life possible. It was worse than that. I wanted to die," Williams said.

Broke, beat down and completely addicted to heroin, Williams was several months pregnant before she finally surrendered.

"When you get that bad, you just wake up every day and hope you die. You don't see another way out," she said.

Williams, 28, sees the Volunteers of America Freedom House as her only shot at a better life.

It's a safe place for her and daughter, Kee Kee, to live while she works to stay clean.

"This is where Kee Kee sleeps and this is the crib where the baby will sleep when she gets here," Williams said.

Williams' struggle with drugs started at an early age with marijuana.

Eventually she discovered prescription pain pills and abused everything from hydrocodone and oxycontin to opana.

"Opiates were really what I fell in love with," Williams said.

Like many addicts, Williams found the supply of pills was dwindling on the streets.

As Kentucky lawmakers, doctors and law enforcement started working together to stop the illegal push of the prescriptions, users turned to the less expensive opiate.

"Heroin hit Louisville and was cheaper and more readily available," said Courtney Wallace, the director of addiction recovery for the Volunteers of America.
She said heroin is hitting a younger population including moms.

"There are a lot of women coming in here that their catalyst in coming in was that they wanted to deliver a healthy baby," Wallace said.

Many of the women living in the Freedom House are pregnant and have kids in tow.

Patients take comfort in knowing their basic needs will be met while they fight to stay clean.

"It's hard to quit using when your life is chaotic and you don't know where you are going to be and the only coping skill you have is using," Wallace said.

By the time most patients arrive, they've already been through detox which can be a brutal experience following heroin use.

Through support meetings and general counseling, most are able to stay on track and eventually move out.

"I really haven't had to go without, so it's really great," Williams said.

Williams said she spends her days taking care of Kee Kee and talking through the pain and anger that she carries from years lost to addiction.

"I was a horrible person, a horrible mother," she said.

Prior to Kee Kee, Williams had two other children who were placed with family because she was unable to take care for them.

She's hoping this time will be different.

"You have to have that moment where it's like, 'I don't want to do this anymore. I don't want to live like this. I know I can do better than this,'" Williams said.

By sharing her very personal and painful story, she hopes to save others.

"These are people, not just drug addicts. These are people," Williams said.

Williams said she's buried at least seven friends and family members due to heroin use.

She's hoping one day to become a drug counselor to help others.

Coming up tomorrow, find out more about an opiate replacement therapy that is raising eyebrows with some
in the medical community.

In some cases, addicts are finding a way to abuse what was meant to heal.

Health officials said some of the common signs of heroin abuse include a disheveled appearance, withdrawal from family and friends, aggressive behavior, slurred speech and a general sense of disorientation.

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