Rock stars Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jerry Garcia and Jimi Hendrix, comedian John Belushi, actors River Phoenix and Chris Farley, singers Bradley Nowell and Shannon Hoon, and more recently, actor Brad Renfro can all be counted among heroin’s most famous victims. Stephen Della Valle, author of the new book Rising Above the Influence, is disturbed by the length of that list.
“We’ve lost some of our best and brightest to heroin,” he says. “Some people who were role models to many. It’s no surprise that statistics show children as young as thirteen using heroin these days.”
And that’s not the only alarming fact that Mr. Della Valle uncovered while writing his own memoir about drug and alcohol abuse. According to ww.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov, Americans spent an estimated $10 billion on heroin in the year 2000 alone.
“People look at the deaths of Joplin, Morrison and Hendrix and think that heroin is ancient history,” says Mr. Della Valle. “But in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse, 3.1 million Americans over the age of twelve reported using heroin at least once in their lifetimes.”
Though he’s not proud to admit it, Mr. Della Valle can be counted among the heroin statistics himself—he used it, along with alcohol, cocaine and prescription medication, since his early teens. After twenty-plus years of substance abuse, he finally found his way into a rehabilitation center that helped him, though it took losing his job, his family and himself to get him there.
When a Hollywood star dies of a heroin overdose, fans only see a tragic end to a “glamorous”
· Collapsed veins
· Infection of the heart lining and valves
· Liver disease
· Increased risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis C and other infectious diseases
“If people knew the truth about heroin, maybe they would stay away from it,” Della Valle hopes. “There is nothing cool or admirable about being an addict, no matter how much the media tries to make it look that way.”
Stephen Della Valle is president of the board of directors at Turning Point rehabilitation center in Verona, New Jersey. Currently celebrating twenty years of sobriety, he lives in Oak Ridge, New Jersey, with his wife, Donna. He has three children.
Rising Above the Influence is available now (ISBN: 0-9801776-0-