Special to Patch
A tall, thin woman with platinum blond hair and tan cowboy boots struts along the side of a busy street in Camden. She is followed closely by her pimp, a plainly-dressed man in his mid-30s, who holds a plastic grocery bag with her belongings in it, a cell phone and some clothes.
She surveys the passing cars, waiting for one to pull over to her so she can make some quick money. This has become the daily routine for Corrine, who started selling her body when she was 19 years old.
“I’ve been up for three days straight,” 28-year-old Corrine, also known as CeeLo, said between taking sips of the beverage she was holding in her shaking hand. “Being addicted is like Hell on Earth, that’s really the only way I can describe it.”
Corrine, who grew up in Haddonfield and chose
not to reveal her last name, supports her heroin and crack addiction by selling
her body on the streets of Camden.
The City of Camden is now plagued with a heroin epidemic that has caused city officials to employ more police officers to search alleyways and abandoned buildings to find people who have overdosed.Camden had 560 cases of heroin abuse in 2012 and has seen a staggering increase so far this year. Although some users are residents, many travel from surrounding towns to Camden to support their addiction. Heroin addiction has turned into a statewide epidemic.
Many people suffering from heroin addiction do not receive help until it is too late.
New Jersey has seen a 53 percent increase in drug-related deaths from 2010 to 2012 alone.
“[The Governor’s Council
on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (GCADA)]’s testimony
once again demonstrates that young people are first introduced
to opiates in their own medicine cabinets, but when the supply
dries up, many look to dangerous alternatives like heroin,” said Senate
Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee Chairman Joseph F. Vitale.
He was referring to a recent report titled Confronting New Jersey’s New Drug Problem: A Strategic Action Plan to Address a Burgeoning Heroin/Opiate Epidemic Among Adolescents and Young Adults.
Many people start off as patients for an injury
and are prescribed painkillers such as Oxycodone or Percocet. They may begin to
develop a dependency. This turns into a need for something stronger so they hit
the streets to support their addiction for opiates, drugs made from the poppy
“I was an addict before but I had gotten clean,” said recovering heroin addict, John, 41, via telephone interview. “When I had back pain, the doctor prescribed me painkillers and next thing you know, I was hooked again.”
According to Camden County Police, the suburban
towns of New Jersey are seeing a spike in heroin addiction. Many people in
suburban areas surrounding Camden come to the city to buy street drugs.
“People see addicts in such a negative light. They’re often portrayed as lowlifes,” said John. “But believe me, there are just as many addicts in the streets as there are in the suburbs. It can be anyone; people of power, teachers, doctors.”
Camden County Police say many of the heroin buyers are coming from suburban towns like Cherry Hill, Haddonfield or Washington Township.
“I grew up in Haddonfield,” said Corrine. As she speaks her body shakes uncontrollably and the drink in her mouth leaks down her chin, she wipes it away and continues to talk. “I was an athlete in high school, and my mom was a nurse. I just started dating a guy who did heroin and I wanted to try it, to see what all the talk was about, you know?”
“It’s so easy to get the stuff. You just go to
Camden, they have it all the time and it’s cheap,” said John. “I was buying
five bags [of heroin] a week. I didn’t inject myself, but I snorted it. I got
to the point where I needed it to keep me normal so I could go to work.”
According to a report by Trust for America’s
Health (TFAH), drug overdose deaths outnumber motor vehicle related deaths in
29 states and Washington, D.C. The report also notes that currently one in 10
Americans with a substance abuse disorder receives treatment.
“I’ve tried to get help,” said Corrine. “I’ve been clean before, I was clean for four years before I relapsed. I still visit my mother, she says if I get clean again she’ll take me back.”
Opiate addiction is a brain disease and although
there is no cure, it can be managed through treatment and recovery programs.
Many addicts avoid treatment because of the negative effects of withdrawal, including
muscle pain, bone pain, insomnia, restlessness, vomiting and involuntary muscle
“Heroin withdrawal is like the worst flu you’ve ever had,” said John. “It’s physical and mental. I mean, mental addiction is rough but a physical addiction is worse. Your entire body aches and you feel like you’re dying.”
Despite the odds stacked against her, Corrine still has hope for a better life.
When asked about her future goals Corrine said, “I want to get clean and have kids by the time I’m 30. I want to find a man who loves me for who I am.”