- Associated Press - Sunday, June 22, 2014

HIGH POINT, N.C. (AP) - Zachary Hall woke up from a coma in the detox unit at High Point Regional Health hospital with no recollection of what had happened or why he was there.

He was found four days prior on the floor of a McDonald’s bathroom. He had overdosed on heroin, leaving him with a severe brain injury at the age of 27, affecting his short-term memory.

When paramedics found him, he was without a heartbeat. They shocked him several times to bring him back, said Ronnie Meindl, co-executive director of Pierced Ministries, a local nonprofit dedicated to helping drug addicts overcome their addictions.

Hall’s story has become all-too-common in High Point in recent months as police try to trace a potent, and deadly, strain of heroin has been making its way through the city.

On May 16, High Point police reported seven overdoses in a 24-hour period, alarming local authorities.

Up through that time, there had been 34 drug overdoses reported in the city for the year, 31 of them involving heroin. Five of the overdoses resulted in death. That’s a stark contrast to the 25 drug overdoses the city saw for the entire year of 2013, with 17 of those attributed to heroin.

Hall began using heroin around the age of 19. He said he had heard through some of his friends

about the potentially deadly batch in the city.

“But I didn’t care,” he said. “I was like, well this guy might not have it, you know, everyone’s not selling that batch. I didn’t really care at the time. It was like playing Russian roulette.”

Hall said he can’t remember the night of the overdose.

“I might of been meeting (the dealer) there, or I might of been eating there, who knows,” Hall said. “I was in a coma for four days, and then I came here after detox.”

Hall said he’s doing a lot better, and now that he’s at the ministry, he’s happier and at peace.

“There’s just so many people that care, rather than being out there,” he said, referring to being out on the streets. “This is my second or third program, and I felt like I needed a longer-term program.”

Hall came to the ministry last summer for an interview and told the directors that he thought he could overcome his addiction on his own, said Alice Meindl, owner and executive director of Pierced Ministries.

“Then he went through this really bad overdose a few weeks ago,” she said.

Hall’s father brought him back to the ministry on the day he got out of the hospital.

“On that day in particular, (Hall) was still very unclear. He knew what he wanted, but he had a hard time articulating it,” she said. “But we’ve watched him every day become a little clearer and getting a personality back that nobody’s seen in a long time.”

Brian Gines, 25, also is recovering from his addiction to heroin, which he began using to substitute for his addiction to painkillers. He has been at the ministry for six months and had been using heroin for one year.

“Pain pills got harder to find. You couldn’t get them, and if you could, they were way too expensive,” Gines said. “So heroin was a lot cheaper and easier to get.”

Alice Meindl said the amount of people using the drug hasn’t necessarily increased, but it’s what’s in the heroin now that’s making it different.

“The heroin epidemic has not necessarily escalated beyond where it was,” Alice Meindl said. “The people that have been using it, has not increased all of a sudden, but what you’re seeing are the results of using it, and it’s becoming more fatal or near fatal.”

People suffering from heroin addiction have commonly said that the drug alters the state of mind, taking on a powerful presence in the person’s life, and the addiction is hard to break once it’s taken hold.

“The thing about heroin is it shuts you out of the world completely,” Gines said. “The only thing that runs through your mind is heroin. You don’t care about anything else, the only thing you think about is that next fix. You know, you get that monkey on your back, it rules your life, and I don’t care what anyone else says. They say, ‘That won’t happen to me.’ Yes, it will.”

Hall’s grandfather owns an electrical business and he had been his grandfather’s helper for about 10 years, he said. He has been in the program at the ministry for about one month and when he leaves, he wants to get his electrical license and pursue a career in the electrical business like his grandfather.

“My grandfather is a real good guy, real good to work with. He’s always been there for me and has been very supportive,” Hall said. “I’m just hoping I can gain his trust back, and I know that’s going to take a while to do.”

Struggling with his addiction since he was in his late teens, he said although it might be too early to tell what the future holds, his thoughts are positive and his motivations for winning his battle over addiction are strong.

“This being the fourth time I’ve overdosed, the doctors said my heart can’t take another one,” Hall said. “I can’t afford to have another one.”


Information from: High Point Enterprise, https://www.hpe.com

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