Pass The Cheese, Please?

Addicted to "cheese"? I don't mean the kind found in blocks at the local grocery store, but the whitish-powdery looking kind hidden deep in the heart of Texas. And not made from the help of Texas cattle.

While some of us may be addicted to the yellow, white, or mixed varieties of cheese that we either like on our food or just by itself, others are suffering with an addiction to a different kind of non-dairy demon, called "cheese". Heroine laced with Tylenol.

As I began to research for this article, I couldn't help but remember a young girl about 14 years old who was tempted to "try" heroin one bright sunny day in the halls of her junior high school.

She and her friend gathered around the clean colored powder before them. Debating whether they should or should not. The innocence of not knowing what they were about to get themselves into was in control. The reality of heroin's power eluded them. But something saved them.

To this day I am not sure what stopped me from stepping over into that dark journey. Yes, I said ME. I cannot tell you how many times I have looked back on that very moment in my life and thanked God that I stopped before it was too late. But many are not and were not so fortunate.

What is "Cheese" Heroin?

  • "Cheese" is Mexican black-tar heroin that has been diluted with crushed tablets of over-the-counter sleep medication.
  • The OTC is usually Tylenol PM. When diluted it's about 1-3 percent heroin. The problem with that is though it may be low doses of heroin, the effect wears off more quickly requiring more frequent hits to keep the high.
  • Cheese is a cheap high at $2-$10 a packet, therefore making it more appealing to the lower income populations.
  • Cheap with an expensive end...death.
  • Demographically it's used more among Hispanic people, especially those who are Spanish-speaking families with immigrants. Not that other cultures are immune to being strangled by it as well. It seems to be more isolated to the state of Texas. The concern it that it will begin and has begun to spread to other parts of the country.
  • Cheese is being used mainly by the very young. Heroin is typically used by older adults.

Cheese is highly dangerous to children. Of course it is, you say, as I did when I first read that in an article. Yet, when you look closer, you will understand why that's even necessary to be stated.

  • For one, children, more than adults do not consider the danger and often don't realize it is indeed deadly.
  • Some don't realize that it's heroine.
  • It's cost worthy to them for the high.
  • But the cost soars when that high insists that they return for yet another trip.

And once they are hooked, they are blinded to what is really happening to them. For many, they are taking it every day with little thought other than it makes them feel good. Quickly, cheese grabs them by the throat without warning. Then if they begin to quit taking it, the withdrawals are desperately painful. And sometimes deadly.

"Reports that we were seeing were pretty striking. Kids as young as 9 or 10 years of age coming to the hospital emergency rooms or detox facilities in acute heroin withdrawal," says Dr. Carlos Tirado, a psychiatry professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center and medical director of a drug treatment center in Dallas.

"We didn't know what to do with a 9-year-old in opiate withdrawal, or what the treatment ramifications of that are," Tirado says. "Do you send a 9-year-old to an AA meeting." March 2, 2008

Dallas Morning News reported on a young 17 year old girl, Sarah, who was addicted to cheese. She had struggled with the habit for some time. Her best friend reported that Sarah had been taking drugs since she was in middle school. The break-up of her family seems to have been a catalyst.

Sarah had tried to get help through treatment centers, but to no avail.

Toward the end, as an exercise at her drug-treatment center, she wrote her own obituary:
"A 17-year-old Hispanic female was found died. She went to Emmit J. Conrad High School and was in the 9Th grade. Her name was Sarah Alejandra Aviles. Sarah was a beautiful young women but had problems hanging with the wrong crowd.
"A lot of her friends were gang banger and they sold drugs. She had a 21-year-old brother, and a 8-year-old baby sister, a loving, struggling mother but a father that wasn't really there." Dallas Morning News 3/15/09

What a tragedy. What a loss. My heart hurts for her family. And for those suffering in this addiction.

Addiction is a strange lot. I've counseled with people controlled by this deadly disease over the years. So many never make it. And the ones that do continue to struggle more than you or I can even begin to imagine.

It's easy for some to judge people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. I often wonder if those who do not have these issues ever look at what they are addicted to? Money, things, prestige, authority, control, manipulation, church, their religion. You see, it comes in all forms. And it has one thing in common: DEATH.

I hope we all find better ways to get our lives in order.

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