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From Blessed to Addicted
How heroin nearly ruined a good kid
, Courier Staff Writer
Saturday, April 12, 2014 4:59 AM
To the outside world, I had it all together. But
I was falling apart. I always seemed to run
away from my problems.
Abby Houchens grew up with a supportive family and lots of friends - what she calls a "blessed childhood" - but all that changed when she became addicted to drugs.
Houchens was raised in Oldham County where she did well in high school, enjoyed participating in horse competitions and played soccer. She had several offers from colleges to play soccer, and she chose one of the schools that specialized in her major.
After high school graduation in 2011, Houchens found a job and an apartment. She made friends, began to adjust to college and did well academically during her freshman year.
But Houchens' life began to take a turn sometime between her freshman and sophomore years.
A few people at college told her of a way to deal with her issues - drugs. She gave in to peer pressure and tried a pill. Then she tried injecting heroin.
Even though she never liked needles - she would usually cower in the corner at the doctor's office, she said - the drug seemed to take all of the her problems away.
In fact, the drug gave her no feeling at all.
"Everything was OK in that moment," Houchens said. "I just could not put it down."
Houchens' drug addiction started out as occasional use, but it quickly consumed her life. She would keep a needle filled with heroin by her bed so she could take the drug as soon as she woke up.
"I had to use just to feel normal," she said.
Eventually, her drug habit caused her to lose friends, her job, her apartment and her focus on a degree. Houchens moved back in with her parents, who attempted to get treatment for their daughter.
Still, Houchens found ways to get drugs.
Her parents finally used "tough love" to help her. They took her car and kicked her out of the house.
Houchens eventually went into treatment in Louisville after being jailed for drug use.
"I had thought drugs were the solution to life," Houchens said, but she began to see that her drug addiction was the problem.
With treatment and support, she has been clean for about 140 days.
Houchens shared her story Tuesday during a public discussion about drugs in Trimble County sponsored by the Trimble CARES Coalition.
While her story is one of survival and overcoming addition, other addicts too often lose the battle with drugs to overdose.
Heroin used to be an issue for larger cities like Louisville and Cincinnati, Kentucky State Police Trooper Dave Roberts said, but more rural areas have begun to see the effects of heroin in the courts system - and in the coroner's office.
Trimble County Sheriff Tim Coons said police often saw heroin issues in surrounding counties.
"For a while, we didn't see it," Coons said. "Believe you me, it's here now."
While some drug use seems to have gone down, heroin use has increased significantly, Trimble County District Court Judge Jerry Crosby said.
"The number of people using meth is beginning to decrease," Crosby said, yet addicts are turning to heroin because of costs.
Heroin cases moving through the courts have nearly doubled each year for the last couple of years.
"It's coming, and it's coming in a big way," Crosby said.
Addictions often begin after a person has been prescribed something for an injury, Roberts said. After the prescription runs out, people turn to other avenues to find something to kill the pain. Some turn to doctor shopping, or going from doctor to doctor complaining of pain, illness or injury. Others make illegal street purchases.
"It's a full-time job to be an addict," Roberts said.
People often turn to theft to support drug habits, which also increases the workload for police and the courts.
"You can arrest people all day long, but you're not getting to the root of the problem," Crosby said.
Arresting people on drug possession charges doesn't seem to help the issue either. Inmates often go through withdrawal while in jail, Roberts said, but go back to drugs after serving time.
"I don't think we're going to arrest our way out of it," Roberts said.
Scores of people die each year from drug addiction while waiting for some kind of help, State Opioid Treatment Administrator Mark Fisher said.
Kentucky saw a 650 percent increase in heroin overdoses during 2013, he said.
While numbers are skewed locally because Trimble County residents have to go out of county for medical treatment, Trimble County Deputy Coroner Lee Congleton said the county loses people "all the time" to overdoses.
Sometimes the best way to combat drug addiction is for people to be aware of their loved one's actions. Coons said the best thing parents can do is to ask the tough questions if they think children may be using drugs.
"Be involved with your kids," he said.
Parent involvement is key, Trimble County High School Principal Rachael Adams said, yet kids with a support system in their lives may fall into addiction like Houchens did.
"Good kids make bad decisions," Adams said.
Drug treatment and support groups are available to Trimble County residents - though people may have to travel a little to get the services, Linda Mudd with Seven Counties Services said. County officials also can provide contacts for anyone looking for treatment options.
"It's impossible to help someone who doesn't see that they have a problem," Mudd said. "The biggest barrier is really motivation."
More information about the Trimble CARES Coalition may be found online at www.trimblecares.org.
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