Young addict back on the road to recovery

Kenji Yamauchi, 24, has been involved with drugs for more than half his life, and hooked on heroin for years. He’s used Ecstasy, psychedelics and cocaine, and admits to “doing some pretty shady shit” to pay for drugs.

He’s attempted suicide three times — most recently after finding himself in a homeless shelter and realizing he couldn’t take the “miserable” lifestyle.

He’s not alone.

Maine is seeing a surge in heroin trafficking, and what drug agents say is an “influx of heroin that we haven’t seen before.”

In May, The New York Times reported that a rash of heroin overdoses throughout New England had prompted warnings about unusually pure or “bad” heroin making its way through the region and the potential consequences, which included increased crime as well as added stress on welfare and the public health system. The New York Times piece also linked the influx of heroin into New England to an increase in HIV and hepatitis C cases.

Drug agents, public health officials and addiction specialists cite discouraging if important statistics, but Yamauchi — a sensitive, vulnerable and courageous young man — offers a powerfully honest and human perspective on the difficult struggle those with addiction face.

Though he’s gotten clean not once, but twice, Yamauchi knows he’s one of the lucky few who has, so far, beaten the odds. He also knows the battle has only begun.

“Everyone always says it doesn’t go away,” he said Friday of the drug’s pull. “People who have been in AA for 30, 40 years say, ‘I still have the urge to drink.’ So I don’t think it’s going to go away. It’s just about learning how to deal with it.”

The Bangor Daily News will try to follow Kenji’s story. We wish him luck.

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