Pregnant and Addicted to Heroin

Doerr often contemplates if her decision to raise Riley, her 4-year-old, was wise.

"Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't have given her up for adoption," she said, crying. "Because she has to see me come in and out of her life, and it's not fair. It's not fair. And it gets harder the older she gets. ... As a parent nobody wants that for their daughter."

Doerr's mom, Patti, has custody of Riley, and cares for her while desperately trying to find help for her daughter. But help is hard to find in the heartland.

Despite the rampant heroin abuse here, there is no detox facility in the entire county, meaning most addicts must wean themselves off of the drug at home. Experts say while heroin detox is painful, it's not usually dangerous in the way other drug withdrawals can be. So emergency rooms usually turn down heroin addicts looking to detox, because hospital supervision is rarely considered medically necessary.

For most addicts, staying clean after detox requires a long-term rehabilitation program. And many of those programs require insurance, something few addicts have.

As a result, jails have become makeshift detox centers. "When I get out I'm going to try and stay off it," said one Richland County Jail inmate in Mansfield, Ohio. "Because this is the longest I've ever went without using it. I mean I've tried to quit several times but I never went past a week, if I even made it that long. I've been in here since June 4. It's been over two months."

"[This] is the longest I've ever been clean," said Sue Mills, another inmate who had been without heroin for eight days since getting into jail. "They don't have any methadone clinics here. They don't have needle exchange programs. You can't buy needles in Richland County. So it's a neverending cycle of sharing needles and hepatitis. It's just a nightmare."

It's a nightmare not just for the addicts but also for local law enforcement, which is overwhelmed by the crime heroin has brought to their communities. They've seen it affect all kinds of people.

"It could be the person that you know played football in high school," Doerr said. "It could be the person next door. It could be, you know -- just everybody is strung out, you just don't know anymore. You hear everyday stories of, oh, this person, so and so is using drugs. You know mostly you hear about mothers talking to mothers, just so many of their kids. So many people my age are strung out. But even people my mother's age in their 40s are strung, too, it's caught them too."

'I Have No Life Right Now'

Doerr said she is desperate to break free of the grasp heroin has on her.

"I have no life right now," she said. "I try to maintain a halfway normal life where I go and get what I need and I come back and I take care of my daughter. But even now I'm not fully here.

"I am sick much of the time even when I have dope. I'm sick all the time. I sleep all the time," she said. "Seeing myself clean is not out of sight yet. [And] I can't lose that. If I lose that then I have nothing."

For information about how to help those suffering from drug addiction, please visit the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

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