Oklahoma City drummer Michael Newberry played in bands and held a day job. He was married and had young children. Then he crossed paths with an addictive narcotic.
He describes the two years he was addicted to heroin as the worst years of his life.
Newberry first struggled with addiction to pain medicine. Then, when he couldn't buy prescription pills illegally on the streets, he found heroin was available in Oklahoma City.
“I was vulnerable. I went for it and it took me over. It consumed my life.”
Newberry, 56, shoplifted to support his habit in the mid-1990s, and he was caught. He spent 30 days in jail. The jail stay and the use of methadone at a clinic helped him kick the heroin habit.
He's been clean 16 years, but there was a point he didn't think that was possible.
“On heroin I thought I was hopeless.”
Heroin deaths are
on the rise in state
The deadly narcotic still lurks on the Oklahoma City streets today.
For decades heroin was smuggled into the United States from Southeast Asia, law officers said. Now it makes its way to Oklahoma from Mexican cartels, said Mark Woodward, spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control.
Heroin deaths are up in Oklahoma. The state medical examiner reported 20 deaths from heroin overdose in 2012, nearly double from 2011 when there were 11 deaths. Four deaths were reported in 2010.
Data is not yet available for 2013, spokeswoman Amy Elliott said.
Woodward said heroin is mass-produced in Southeast Asia, from poppy fields in Myanmar, Thailand and Laos. Smugglers once brought heroin to America on airplanes and ships, but tighter security has pushed the destination to Mexico, where heroin is then distributed north by Mexican drug cartels.
“We've really cracked down on ships and their cargo and on airplanes, especially since 9/11,” Woodward said.
But with more than 21,000 vehicles entering the country from Mexico at just one El Paso, Texas, border crossing each day, smugglers easily get through and drive heroin north.
The same cartels distributing methamphetamine and marijuana continue to make heroin available in central Oklahoma, Woodward said. Heroin may go for $160 a gram in central Oklahoma, but $360 a gram in cities on the East Coast, he said.
The availability and demand in Oklahoma continues.
“We've arrested 18-year-old users who are unemployed to 40-year-old schoolteachers,” Woodward said.
Thomas “Ty” Boone Pickens IV, the grandson of T. Boone Pickens, died in January of heroin overdose in an accidental death, Tarrant County, Texas, authorities reported.
Medical officials had to wait weeks to receive toxicology and other test results before announcing the cause of death for the 21-year-old junior at Texas Christian University.
‘Don't go down
The focus for law officers continues to be the source, but state agents also put time into preventing drug use. Educating youths in schools about the dangers of drug use has to be a priority, Woodward said.
“We have to educate kids so they don't go down this path,” he said.
Newberry has been heroin-free since April 1997. He has been remarried 10 years and continues to play drums in local bands while holding a regular job.
Heroin may seem fashionable to some musicians or celebrities, but it is far from glamorous, he said. Newberry contracted hepatitis C from using dirty needles to inject heroin.
“It's the price I have to pay for making the wrong choices in my life,” Newberry said.
And the withdrawal “is terrible,” but he did it. There is help out there for users, Newberry said.
“There is a way to get your addiction under control.”