28 year old Ali Cornell's battle with her addiction to heroin is an everyday struggle.“I was strung out for ten years,” she says. She lives in the Woodstock neighborhood where Heroin is used abundantly and is heavily addictive. Four years ago she and her friend were both addicted but he died a week before they were to be married. She says getting better was the most difficult thing she’s ever had to do. Several times a day she struggles with the idea of returning to the grind of Heroin.
“A lot of people think you can wake up one day and just stop doing it. It’s not like that at all. I would not wish this upon my worst enemy.”
All Ali doesn't want to be part of any grim statistic. The number of heroin deaths approached new highs in 2009, according to the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s office. 127 Oregon residents died in 2009 from heroin use.
One of those people was Jason Daniel Smith, who was only 33 years old.Called “JD” by his friend, he was a young man from Kansas with most of his life ahead of him. He died last September from a heroin overdose.
“He would always be the first person there for you or for your friends. Everyone loved him,” says Steven Crow who was JD’s partner for 9 years. “It was a huge loss for the world when we lost him.”
Crow says JD would only use when things were rough between them or when he was feeling low. Since his death last fall, he says not a day has gone by that he hasn’t thought about him and missed him terribly.
“Emotionally it was horrible,” Steven says, “it tore me up inside.”
Heroin deaths in Oregon were the highest recorded in the last ten years. The State Medical Examiner’s report indicates methamphetamine use was second highest with 87 deaths. This is a 20 percent drop from 2008, but it’s still the highest number since 1998. Cocaine use was related to 32 deaths, nearly half the number of drug related deaths in 2006 and the fewest number recorded since 1998.
“The reality is that these are real people,” says Oregon State Medical Examiner Karen Gunson. “There’s been nearly 2500 deaths since 1998, lives that have been cut short because of drug use.”