I came upon your site after googling "How long can a heroin junkie live?" I'm very sorry if it is too forward of me to email you, but my cousin is a junkie. She is the worst of the worst. She lies/steal/sells/prostitutes etc. She has been using for a long time, but was clean for 4 years. She has a 4 year old son. I believe she was on suboxone, and weaned herself off because she wanted to have another baby. She began using again within a month. I believe she started using again in August or September, but it has been in the past 2 months that I hear things have gotten out of control (again). She is living (meaning in a house with no phone, television, washer/dryer, etc) among other addicts and has sold everything she owned. She stole her own sons Christmas presents. I have no way to contact her, but even if I did, I don't even know what I would say. I just wish I could hear her voice one more time, or feel her once loving embrace, but I am realistic and realize that this likely will never happen. I want to know how long someone like this can be expected to live. I have done all of the "online research" if you will, that I can, and it seems like textbook bullshit. I want to know the truth. I want to prepare myself. She has already contracted hepatitis c (years ago), has overdosed (once while pregnant) and been resuscitated, and almost lost her arm from shooting a dirty needle into an already infected area. She has a scar that is probably 2-3 inches thick at it's worst running from her wrist almost to her elbow. I wouldn't be surprised if she has AIDS. How possible is it? I believe she is living among mainly male junkies, and is prostituting herself to support more than just herself. I can not find anyone else that will tell me the truth. How long can she possibly stay alive (if you can even call it that). I am so lost in loving her, and it is consuming me.
I am so very sorry to bother you, but you seem like someone who is truthful and not afraid to "tell it like it is," for lack of a better term. Everyone else that I have asked responds by saying..."Well...uh, it depends how far along she is" or "I would have to see her to tell you what I think." I want the truth. I want to know what to expect, and noone will tell me. I read about 3 seconds of what you had to say and was immediately intrigued. If I am out of line please tell me, but if you are willing, please tell me what she is going through and what I should expect. I live every moment waiting for the call that she is gone, as I don't see there being any other outcome.
Even if I don't hear back from you, I thank you for what I have already learned from your blog,
Aunt Agony says:
Firstly thanks for reading my words and seeing someone you thought you could approach to share such things with. Your questions are not easy to answer, but there are some important clues in all you say which allows me to give an informed answer.
Very briefly, I think your cousin will be dead within the next seven years. I think she has a 95% chance of being HIV positive, and I will explain why I think this. (Please do not lose sight that this is all conjecture.)
Living in a house of addicts = (hints at) group/shared usage.
House is a wreck = makes any kind of hygiene impossible. They must be living and sleeping around each others blood and needles.
She has hepatitis C = is a strong pointer to suggest she has shared needles and/or equipment in the past.
Prostitutes herself for drugs = The most dangerous kind of prostitution. Non-addicted prostitutes set the terms to the client, and if the client doesn't agree then she will fuck him off and wait for someone who accepts her terms. BUT, prostitution through addiction is very different. There is much more urgency to get cash and get out of there. Many will sacrifice safety and the health risks involved for the quick buck. In this instance it is the punter who dictates terms, and if he wants sex without protection, and goes to pull his money away, the chances are he will get it what he wants.
Almost lost an arm = (hints at) decreased immunity to infection. A huge majority of addicts who lose limbs are HIV+.
So I think from all you say that there is a huge chance your cousin is HIV positive. I'd be surprised if she tested negative.
But, let's suppose she is not HIV, then what? Contrary to what people think heroin overdose is extremely difficult (the addict has to take 5- 10 ten times the normal amount for it to be anywhere near fatal). But OD is very possible if alcohol or tranquilizers are taken on top with the heroin. I'd
say from how you describe your cousin she is almost certainly doing that. It's mostly the very poor addicts who use downers and alcohol on top of smack. One, as it serves to exaggerate the effects of heroin; two, because they are never quite sure when or where heroin is coming from and so have go into the daily habit of stabilizing themselves with downers and booze. But OD is still not easy, so don't have nightmares about that. It's a very small percentage of addicts who die due to OD.
Another thing to keep in mind is that heroin is NOT a quick killer. People think that an addict will live for 2 or 3 years at most, but that's a myth. Heroin is a long term addiction and it is on average 10 years before the user successfully manages to quit and stay clean. I know many addicts that have
been using for 25-30 years. It's not as dangerous as what it is made out to be... it's not true that addicts are living on the edge every second of every day. Yes, they've a greater chance of dying than a non-user but that's as far as it goes.
Anyway, here's Aunties 'official predictions' of your aunt's life expectancy based on a few different scenarios and taking into account she has Hep C:
With HIV and continuing to use heroin: 5 years maximum
With HIV but quitting heroin: 5 - 10 years
Without HIV and continuing to use heroin: 10 -15 years
Without HIV and if she stops 10 - 25 years
Still, regardless of anything there still exists the small chance that some weird tragedy could come visit her tomorrow... same as for you and me. But let's hope not.
I hope that has helped a little? and if not, well, it was kinda fun to do...
All My Thoughts & Wishes, Auntie A. x