If you have a friend or loved one who is addicted to heroin, you’ve probably tried all sorts of things to get them to stop. Pleading, crying, coaxing, bargaining and threatening are all common ploys, and they rarely work. You must understand that the person is addicted. Their brain chemistry has been greatly altered by the heroin. In many ways, they’re not the same person they were before. They’re also terribly afraid of withdrawal and will do anything to avoid it. This article will discuss how to help a heroin addict who refuses treatment.
Heroin addiction isn’t what it used to be. In recent years, the nation’s heroin supply has become contaminated with fentanyl, a cheap synthetic opioid some 30 to 50 times the strength of heroin. Without testing, its presence is undetectable and deadly. It takes very little fentanyl to kill. Dealers use the drug to increase the potency of their heroin, which boosts profits.
It’s not likely that your heroin-addicted friend or loved one actually wants to die, but you can be sure to tell them that every new batch of heroin they buy could very well be their last. Let them know that you’ll support them emotionally if they elect to seek treatment. Be sure to tell them that modern detox procedures involve very little discomfort. And also be sure to tell them the story of the Frozen Addicts.
Heroin: a Warning from the Past
It’s been a long time since street heroin users have heard of MPTP. MPTP is a nasty impurity than can occur when failing to follow proper chemistry steps. Once in the brain, MPTP is converted into MPP+, a compound that destroys the brain’s substantia nigra, which manufactures dopamine. Without dopamine, normal movement is impossible. In fact, that’s what causes Parkinson’s disease. In the case of MPTP poisoning, so much dopamine is missing that movement may not be possible at all.
Barry Kidston was a young graduate chemistry major who decided he was going to make an analog of meperidine, brand name Demerol, for his own intravenous use. In 1976, this was perfectly legal. Although meperidine was controlled, its analogs were not. Barry was making one of meperidine’s analogs called MPPP. Meperidine is a powerful synthetic opioid, and its analog MPPP is only a little weaker. Other than that, the two compounds had much the same effect. Barry made his MPPP for several months with no problems until one day when he made a critical mistake. He must have either skipped a step, applied too much acid or too much heat, and he inadvertently ended up with an end product that was mostly MPTP and not MPPP. When Barry injected what he thought was MPPP, he became frozen in place over the next few days, unable to move. The MPTP he had accidentally created had destroyed the part of his brain that makes dopamine. He was eventually treated with levodopa, which is converted into dopamine in the brain, and he regained some movement, but levodopa has serious side effects. Barry died of a cocaine overdose before he was 25.
MPTP Strikes Again
In the early 1980s, a group of heroin users started turning up in hospital emergency rooms, young people unable to move a muscle. Parkinson’s rarely strikes before the age of 65 or so, so that was ruled out. Some of the patients were diagnosed with some form of catatonia, but this didn’t really fit, either. An astute young physician suspected something else was causing the problem, but because the patients couldn’t move, he tried giving them levodopa anyway. It worked. Able to speak again, one young man told the doctor he’d injected some new type of heroin a few days prior. It turned out that all the frozen addict victims had done the same thing. The new drug had been contaminated with MPTP. The underground chemists synthesizing the new heroin had made the same mistake that Barry Kidston did. The damage to the brain’s substantia nigra was irreversible and permanent. Most of the frozen addict victims subsequently lived miserable lives and died while quite young.
Anyone using heroin or any street drugs today should know this story. It’s just a matter of time until it happens again, that is, some synthetic drug will cause some kind of devastating damage to the brain like MPTP does. It might even be MPTP itself again. The chemical recipes for both meperidine and MPPP are still out there.
If you need help getting someone you love into treatment, call us at 833-610-1174. Our professional counselors will be able to formulate a plan to try to get your loved one into treatment. Street drugs today are more dangerous than ever. It can’t be too soon. We look forward to your call.