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With reporting from Andre Malok and Ashley Peskoe. Illustrations by Anna Vignet.
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What would happen if you took everyone who is addicted to heroin in New Jersey and sent them to live in one place? In fact, social network analysis suggests you likely will know several city residents, whether they toil at a desk behind you or sleep in a bed down the hall.
Heroin won't just destroy your life, it will destroy your community. From the border, Herointown looks inviting. But I lost my mother and then my father and I just lost it. And I know there would be no coming back from it.
This city exists all across New Jersey, where heroin and opioid addiction have exploded in the past 10 years, killing more than 5, people and enslaving hundreds of thousands more.
It's not a new story, but one whose tendrils reach far deeper into the Garden State than most know. Over the past year, NJ Advance Media has collected hundreds of stories from people touched by this epidemic - addicts, recovering users, mothers, fathers, friends and family - to detail the struggle with addiction.
Last year, we put out a blind call to readership: Tell us your heroin story. The results were remarkable. We received more than responses from towns in New Jersey.
The men and women spanned ages 17 to Some responses ran more than 2, words. Since then, 12 months of reporting has taken us into suburban homes and city apartments, and from needle exchanges and rehabilitation centers to jails and cemeteries. The stories were told in the words of the people who lived them. They detailed joy and heartbreak, anger and frustration.
So imagine, if you will, a town populated by these individuals - the fastest growing municipality in New Jersey. Our town is fictional, but the voices are real. Heroin users move through addiction along strikingly similar paths. They enter this world and are sucked deep into a community that seems to collapse around them. Herointown is a city in a bubble, its residents unknowingly bound in their own isolation, drifting farther away from the lives they once knew.
From the border, Herointown looks inviting. The view is not unlike staring at the heart of Jersey City or Morristown -- streets alive and bustling, hallmarks of a vibrant Adult Diaper Dating Nj Devils Parking Cost growing community. Like the rest of New Jersey, Herointown's residents are diverse, but that's changing.
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While things appear normal, a closer look reveals cracks and deformities -- like the slowly crumbling facade of a building. On many homes, the paint is chipping, the sidewalks cracking.
Lawns have been allowed to grow a little too long. In many cases, the buildings are just skeletal husks, a curtain hiding decrepit living conditions. Herointown is a carefully crafted mirage. And it isn't until you're deep inside its borders that you realize something is terribly wrong. The death rate here is nearly twice that of the state, and the rate of communicable disease, unemployment and homelessness far outpaces any level New Jersey has seen in click. From the inside, Herointown's booming population makes sense to the residents.
The same thing that brought them here keeps them here. Every day, Earl Amin Jr. It stirs conflicting emotions about his past and their likely future.
Newark, New Jersey category. Why don't you just stop? On a recent spring day, Thomas Reigle visited two graves for the first time. They can have fun and we let them stretch the limits a bit. Today it is ranked 15th in the world, 3rd in the United States.
He has empathy, but only shakes his head. Amin was released from prison in after serving years for armed robbery, which he said he committed to support his heroin habit. Heroin check this out half of his life. Heroin won't just destroy your life, it will destroy your community.
One drug dealer can destroy an entire community like that," he said, snapping his fingers. Jonathan Fedorchak, a year-old from Bernards, remembers being enamored when he arrived in Herointown more than five years ago. It was the early s and she recently had graduated high school, where she was a cheerleader and a soccer player.
She spent some time at college but left because it wasn't for her. She began dating a recovering heroin addict who used methadone to stifle his cravings.
She knew nothing of the drug, or its pull on users. The most I ever did in high school was either drink or smoke weed and that was very rare. He just ended up doing it in front of me. Addicts often describe using heroin or opioids for the first time as transcendent.
For many, like Cassa, it is born out of youthful curiosity. For others, it begins with necessity - a car accident or injury soothed by powerful painkillers. Dave Greenwald, a boat mechanic from Brick, was prescribed Percocet and Oxycontin after suffering a back injury.
After initially visiting Herointown, most want to return, addiction experts say.
It seems welcoming and comfortable, shiny and new. When the high wears off and reality comes crashing Adult Diaper Dating Nj Devils Parking Cost, the desire to come back is only reinforced. Prescription pills are readily available, albeit expensive, which isn't often a problem at first. They're legally prescribed, so it seems safe. Many of the new users are running from something, addicts and addiction experts say. Abuse, neglect click at this page depression are common among addicts, and heroin or opioids dulls the sharp edges of such plights for a time.
This was Cassa's experience. My sister was young and I was raising her. And I was overwhelmed with that, with school, with work," Rainier said. It just, it made me not feel. Hepatitis-C spreads uninhibited in Herointown. According to the state Department of Health, cases of the potentially deadly disease have tripled since Bob Baxter, who ran a needle exchange program in Newark up until earlier this year, says at least a quarter of source clients under 25 test positive for the disease.
It doesn't seem to faze them. It doesn't take long - some say a month, for others just a week, even though many people here have jobs, families and active social lives.
Matt is in his 20s and grew up in Essex County.
Outwardly, he's doing well, working as a full-time chemist. He found a job right out of college after maintaining high marks. None of my coworkers know my demons, even though I'm high at work almost every day.
In time, people inevitably start to catch on. Then the questions begin. Why don't you just stop? Can't you see what is happening? How did you let it get this bad? The answers, unequivocally, are as uniform as the questions: I don't know, respectively. In answering these questions, Fedorchak explained how he sacrificed a little bit more of his old life each day. It read article with pills at parties.
He liked them, and the pills became a habit. He was in college, after all, he reasoned. Then he started to get sick when he wasn't taking them.
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And they were expensive for a college Adult Diaper Dating Nj Devils Parking Cost with no income, so he started selling drugs and his possessions. Eventually, he was stealing. Little by little, he said, the unthinkable became part of his day-to-day just so he could get high.
It's a common refrain among addicts. It'll make you do whatever you have to to get one more. Cassa said she and her boyfriend once carjacked a taxi. David, a year-old from Boonton, said he lost his pizzeria after he began stealing from his partner of more than 20 years.
Charles, a year-old from Roxbury, said he used with his friends for years, a decision that cost him his career in the military and landed him in jail.
Many users maintain jobs and relationships, sometimes only by a thread, but enough to give the appearance of normalcy - a lie as important to themselves as just click for source else. For most, reality eventually becomes too difficult to bear as consequences mount. Sick days are a weekly event.
Friends fall away and fights with loved ones happen regularly. Some witness people die around them. Heroin promises the illusion of a better life, if only briefly, and lies prop up the illusion until an addict can use again.
I could rationalize anything.