Cumberland Times-News

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April 7, 2014

At 21, recovering heroin addict makes a new start

EDITOR’S NOTE — The death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman underscored a troubling development: Heroin, long a scourge of the back alleys of American life, has spread across the country. Last of a three-part series.

AURORA, Ill. — Just out of Cook County Jail after being arrested with 15 bags of heroin, Cody Lewis had all of $11 in his pocket. But not for long.

Almost immediately, he spent $10 on yet another bag of smack, making the buy on the Chicago streets last May as he headed to a police station to retrieve his cellphone. He shot up in a grocery store parking lot, and continued on his way.

By then, Lewis was a $100-a-day addict. Heroin was no longer fun. He needed it to get rid of the sweats and the shakes, the body cramps, the aches in his bones. “I had to use,” he says, “to feel normal, like a regular person.”

Lewis was consumed by heroin. Every day was the same: Get up sick if he hadn’t used in 12 hours. Figure out how to get money. Drive 35 miles from his suburban home in Aurora to Chicago to score. “My whole existence,” he says, “was just finding ways to get high.”

In many ways, Lewis represents the changing face of heroin in America. He is in his 20s, lives in the suburbs — two traits that fit a growing number of users — and graduated to heroin after years of getting high with other drugs.

When Lewis snorted his first line at age 18, he’d already used almost every imaginable drug: Marijuana. Cocaine. LSD. Ecstasy. Mushrooms. Pills. Heroin, though, was much more seductive.

“It was just like someone had wrapped me in a blanket,” he recalls. “I’d found the drug I was looking for ... all the depression and anxiety and all that stuff that I was going through ... heroin kind

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