This is the second in a three-part series. Read part one: "The new face of heroin addiction." Read part three: "As heroin use rises, treatment experts reflect on their efforts."
Logan Spude lay on the floor covered with a sheet, his body still warm.
His pockets held a wallet and a can of Grizzly Long cut tobacco. His black sneakers rested where he left them, right by the front door.
Paramedics declared him dead at 4:33 a.m.
Just hours after leaving the Verde Valley Guidance clinic the afternoon before, Spude relapsed by shooting up heroin in the parking lot of a local Clarkdale, Arizona, Walmart, where he and an acquaintance had just purchased a 10-pack of syringes, some spoons and water.
Early the next morning, too high to get back to his sober living home, he fell asleep on his friend's floor and never woke up.
Spude had tried to beat his addiction multiple times. He was 26.
At its worst, the life of a heroin addict is deadly and unforgiving. Rising rates of heroin abuse nationwide led to more than 250,000 heroin-related emergency room visits in 2011, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.
And of the 278,481 Americans who were admitted to treatment facilities in 2011 for heroin addictions, 53.2 percent were young adults, aged 20 to 34, the DEA reported. Although teenagers accounted for only 1,503 admissions, the size of the group increased by 32 percent from 2007 to 2011.
"It's alarming for me to watch this happen because I know what addiction does and I know that adults aren't capable of handling addiction," said Doug Coleman, a special agent with the Phoenix Division of the Drug Enforcement Administration. "Seventeen, 18-, 19-year-old kids certainly have no chance of handling addiction if they go down that path."
At least not if they try to handle it alone.
At 18 years old, Devon Hancock used heroin for the first time and fell into a two-and-a-half-year addiction.
"In the grand scheme of things, luckily not that long at all, but (heroin) definitely brought me to my knees very quickly," he said.
His mother held an intervention and took away his car keys, but that didn't stop him from getting high. When she realized he hadn't quit, she took him to an assessment facility, where he started the recovery process but didn't finish.
Hancock said he wanted to quit heroin, but it wasn't until he couldn't afford his addiction anymore — after pawning his guitars, among other possessions — that he made the decision to get clean.
He turned to Google to search for detox facilities and admitted his problem to his mother and friends. By doing this, Hancock followed what counselors and academics say is an essential first step toward breaking heroin's grip: reaching out for help.
After admitting a drug problem, the first thing an addict should do is sit with family and friends to figure out what resources are available, said Shane Watson, communications coordinator for notMYkid, an education resource center for families. Loved ones may know a facility or counselor, and they can help the addict find professional help.
"Often … those word-of-mouth referrals can be a lot easier and a lot less intimidating than trying to open up a phone book or going on Google or something like that," said Watson, who is a former heroin addict.
Addicts also need to consider how they will talk about their problem, Watson said. Depending on the effect of their addiction on family and friends, an apology may be in order. Addicts shouldn't justify their actions or claim to be a victim during those conversations, he added.
In other words, the process requires humility, an emotion Hancock got to know well during his journey to sobriety.
"There are a lot of different ways to get sober," he said. "But the biggest thing is reaching out and asking someone for help and not trying to internalize the notion that, 'I've got this … I know the answers, I know how to get sober,' because, at least in my experience, that wasn't the case."
Laurie Hancock held an intervention with her son Devon when she realized he was using heroin. Months later, she took him to an assessment facility when she learned he lied about follow-up treatment.
She called friends for advice. Someone suggested contacting Leslie Bloom, CEO of DrugFreeAZKids.org.
"(Bloom and her colleagues) were just a huge help," Hancock said. "They helped get me a counselor so that I could learn about the drug and what to do and how to deal with it and what's enabling versus helping."
If she could do things differently, Hancock said she wouldn't have trusted her son as much as she did.
"I believed him when he said that (he) had quit. I believed him when he said, 'Oh no, that guitar is in my apartment,' or, 'No, so and so has that guitar,' when in fact they had all been pawned," she said. "I just believed him because he had always been a very honest kid."
Watson said the first thing parents need to do when they suspect their child is abusing heroin is to accept reality. They should reach out to medical professionals for advice on how to be supportive without allowing the behavior to continue.
"Chances are (that addicts) already think very poorly of themselves," he said. "What they need to hear from their family is: 'This behavior cannot continue. You are not a bad person. You are a worthwhile person that I love. (But) your behavior has to change.'"
Parents should intervene even if the child doesn't want to hear it, said Foster Olive, an associate professor of psychology at Arizona State University.
"Obviously if the person is still a minor, then parents have the primary responsibility for the well-being of the child and should be proactive and talk to their own physicians and a counselor," he said.
Parents might also consider finding their own support group, in order to gear up for what is almost always a difficult fight, Laurie Hancock said.
"I'd just say get something that works for you," she said. "You need to just jump in, you know, with both feet and get ahold of this monster."
Moving on after loss
Barbara Spude said that her son, Logan, first began abusing alcohol as a teenager when his brother, Ryan, died in a car accident. He first smoked marijuana at 16, then abused prescription drugs at 17 and graduated to heroin at 21.
Spude called Ryan's death "devastating" and said that it might point to the emotional issues that need to be addressed when confronting a drug problem.
"Maybe there's some deep down issues in families and maybe we need to be looking at that instead of just focusing on the heroin," she said.
Although Logan Spude died of a heroin overdose, his mother focuses on the brighter spots of his recovery when she remembers his life.
"He was starting to mentor other heroin users," she said. As she grieves, she follows in Logan's footsteps, having open conversations with parents struggling with the same issues that rocked her family.
"Drugs have never been discussed in this town. Ever. Ever. It's pretty much a 'no see, no talk,'" said his mother, Barbara Spude. "Only when Logan died did I have nine moms, because I was counting them … nine moms come to me and tell me that their children were addicted to heroin and they didn't know what they were going to do."
This is the second in a three-part series on heroin addiction produced in partnership with the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. For more on the series, visit http://hookedaz.cronkitenewsonline.com/