By Mary Kilpatrick
Houma Courier News Paper
Published: Saturday, December 7, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 7, 2013 at 11:35 p.m.
Marie Foshee waits up in her Bayou Blue living room every night, half expecting her only son to walk through the door. It's been nearly three months since Bubba left treatment and died from a heroin overdose, and she still can't understand it.
“They call husbands that lose their wives 'widowers,' children that lose their parents, 'orphans,' ” she said last week. “But what do they call parents that lose their children? Nothing. Because it's not supposed to be.”
John Foshee, nicknamed “Bubba,” overdosed Sept. 18 after a friend injected him with two doses heroin, the Terrebonne Sheriff's Office said. The 27-year-old died shortly afterward on his couch.
It's the kind of tragedy police and social service workers see more frequently in Terrebonne and Lafourche, where heroin overdoses, though still a relative few, killed more residents this year than ever, coroner's offices in both parishes say.
Foshee was one of 18 people in Terrebonne who died from drug overdoses this year, Coroner's Office Chief Investigator Danny Theriot said. Four were due to heroin, and Theriot said he suspects three more deaths pending lab results also involved the drug.
Of the 15 overdoses last year, only one person died using heroin, he said.
In Lafourche, 14 people died of drug overdoses this year, up from 11 in 2012, Lafourche Parish Coroner's Office Chief Investigator Mark Goldman said. Though he did not have an exact count, he said more of those deaths resulted from heroin than in prior years.
Arrests are also up. In Terrebonne, the Sheriff's Office has recorded 20 heroin-related arrests in 2013, almost twice as many as last year.Type your paragraph here.Both injected and snorted, heroin's stigma has declined among its users as the drug has strengthened while becoming less expensive, typically $10 to $20 for a single dose, local authorities said. The drug draws addicts frustrated by new regulations on prescription pills, especially powerful painkillers like oxycodone. Pills have undergone formula changes that have made them less potent and harder to crush, factors that blunt the immediate and powerful high abusers want. Heroin produces a similar immediate high but is cheaper and more available.
“The problem with the heroin overdoses is that it's so potent,” Goldman said. “It's not cut; it's pure.”
A social stigma the drug earned in the 1980s and 1990s has all but vanished, Brett Matherne, clinical director at New Start Recovery Addiction Wellness Center in Houma. “There's no fear with it,” said Matherne, a licensed addiction counselor. “It's scared the hell out of me. I've had a lot of close calls with clients almost dying recently.”
In the past, many heroin users were “very embarrassed” by their addictions, he said.
“Now,” Matherne said, “it's no big deal.”
The dreamy, warm high ignites “this euphoric feeling in the brain,” he said. “Their brain never really forgets how good it was.”
It's the most frequent addiction Matherne and other experts in the field say they see.
“I would say probably about 80 to 85 percent of our calls have heroin and opiates and pain pills,” Matherne said.
Terrebonne Drug Court Treatment Director Clarence McGuire Jr. has seen a similar movement in his work counseling addicts convicted of felony drug use.
“Most of our clients in the last year-and-a-half are coming in with their primary drug being heroin,” he said.
Drug users start younger and move to the drug faster, Matherne said.
“They're going from straight from marijuana to pills to heroin within a year,” Matherne said. “They're moving quicker into their hard-core additions faster than ever.”
Over the past two months, Matherne said he has sent six teens to inpatient therapy for severe heroin addiction treatment. But no such centers operate locally; addicts must travel to larger cities to received specialized, long-term care. Without insurance, stays can set addicts or their parents back between $9,000 and $20,000.
The drive and distance from home might make quitting drugs harder and returning to old habits easier, Marie Foshee said.
That's what happened with her son, she said. Bubba handed her a flower when he told her he'd quit drug rehabilitation in August.
“He brought me a big yellow rose,” Marie said.
Bubba told his parents the program wasn't for him, and the couple nodded helplessly. Marie took the flower, and her son left. When the rose started to shrivel, she folded the double bloom in plastic wrap. She keeps it on her mantel beside his ashes.
A talented mechanic and welder, Bubba hid his struggle from his family.
“He was a good person, but the devil of the drug disease was more powerful than him,” his mother said. “Drugs is what he did, not who he was.”
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Heroin: Deadly drug on the upswing locally