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On The Coast: Kicking A Heroin Habit, And Helping Others Do the Same

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An increase in heroin use in Ocean City, Md. has been tied to a crackdown on prescription opiates.
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An increase in heroin use in Ocean City, Md. has been tied to a crackdown on prescription opiates.

Kevin Cranfield was just 14 when he tried drugs for the first time. "It was stuff called quicksilver, stuff you huffed," he says.

He stopped doing drugs for several years, but by 18 he was experimenting again.

"It went from just from smoking weed to drinking... and all of a sudden, before I knew it, my life was out of control," says Cranfield, a resident of Ocean City, Md.

Stories like Cranfield's are increasingly common on the coast. Police and addiction counselors say in recent years they're seeing a growing number of people turning to heroin, particularly as other illicit drugs become more rare and expensive. Cranfield says he didn't like heroin the first time he tried it.

"We didn't shoot it, we snorted it, and I got sick," he recalls. "I didn't really understand the high." But he quickly found himself hooked on the highly addictive opiate.

"I started realizing that I didn't use like my friends did," he says. "I approached some friends and tried to change my life then, but it didn't work. The simple fact was that the drugs made me feel like somebody... I felt powerful."

Cranfield's mother became ill with cancer, and he stole her pain medications to feed his habit.

"My mother and I were very close, and the whole time I was stealing her pills," he says. "I felt so guilty for what I did to my family."

Five years ago, after nearly two decades of using drugs, Kevin finally kicked his habit.

"I had this moment of clarity, where I said 'I'm going to give this thing one more shot,'" he says. "The effort I put into getting high, I've put into my recovery."

The first two years, he says, were tough.

"I started being able to look people in the eye... I started doing the whole process of making the rounds of people I hurt, saying 'I'm sorry, what can I do to make this better?'"

He now tries to help others struggling with their own addictions, by speaking candidly about what he went through.

"I'm not going to sit here and say that it's easy, but it's definitely worth it," he says.

[Music: "Sea of Love" by Tom Waits from Brawlers / "Pay Attention" by Bexar Bexar from Haralambos / "The Theme From The Tomorrow People" by The James Taylor Quartet from Hammond-ology: The Best of The James Taylor Quartet]

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