My friend is a heroin addict – should I have her arrested if it could save her life?

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My friend is a heroin addict – should I have her arrested if it could save her life?

(Atlantic City NJ)

A friend of mine is addicted to heroin, and refuses all help. She came to this country from Russia ten years ago, and after working “normal” jobs became a stripper. Because of her drug addiction she’s lost every job as a stripper in Southern New Jersey. It is alleged that when she was highest, or drunkest, she was offering oral sex to customers.

At first, she “only” had a drinking problem (about a pint of vodka a day), but escalated to pills, and then snorting heroin (about 3 years now). Her work visa expired, and now she’s in the country illegally, with no health insurance.

She frequently wanders the unsafe streets of Atlantic City, NJ, alone, at night. About two months ago, she accepted a ride from a stranger who tied her up (possibly with duct or electrical tape) and may have raped her. He choked her, hit her in the mouth, and cut off a piece of her hair with a knife for a souvenir.

Atlantic City has a serial killer of prostitutes on the loose, and if this is the man she’s lucky to be alive! And she still accepts rides from total strangers! In October, she was rushed to the hospital from the strip club where she worked and hospitalized for five days. No one knew where she was, and she later laughed off her stay in the hospital as “relaxing.”

She later told me it was to detox, but she went right back to drinking and drugging when she got out. A “friend” visited her in the hospital, and I believe may have brought drugs to her.

She frequently goes missing for days, and contacts no one, not even her roommates. Up until last month, she was living with another female heroin addict (who is trying to enter rehab) and her boyfriend who gets high, in a rundown motel.

After disappearing without a trace for about six days, it is believed she moved into a luxury apartment with a man she’s been seeing on the weekends. She too met him after accepting a ride, perhaps around the time she was attacked.

She’s no longer stripping, yet has more cash than normal, and although no longer permanently staying at the motel pays her share of the rent, sometimes in advance, which is something she could never afford to do in the past. It’s obvious that she’s turned to prostitution, and the man she’s living with, most likely, is her pimp and is supplying her with drugs.

Her roommates at the motel have given up on her, and won’t discuss her, or her whereabouts, with me. I know two of her friends, and after dealing with her and her addictions for years, too have given up on her. Since Christmas (it’s now January 11th) my text messages have gone unanswered (I text once or twice a day). She never picks up when I call (which I do almost daily).

In the past, she had a habit of forgetting to charge her phone, but now it’s always on, perhaps so she doesn’t miss a call from a potential client? From the day I met her, nearly seven months ago, she’s been very secretive, and doesn’t tell her closest friends (if she really has any) abut her comings and goings.

I care very much about this woman (she’s 29 years old) and have reached out to her in every way possible: I’ve offered to move her to a warmer climate, tried to scare her into changing her ways before she’s dead, told her I love her and would never abandon her, offered her a place to stay with a family-like atmosphere (she hasn’t spoken to her mother or brother in a year), lied that I was in the hospital, that I was suicidal, etc. Nothing would elicit a response from her. And yes, as far as I know she’s still alive, and still receiving my messages.

I feel like my last resort is to try to have her arrested if that’s what it will take to save her life. New Jersey has very strict heroin laws, and the thought of deportation terrifies her. I know the name of the high rise building where she is staying, but not the room or even floor number. In confidentiality a friend told me the name of the building, so I can’t quite just show up, or start stalking her there. I know nothing about the man she’s staying with (age, race, physical description).

Deep down inside I think she wants help. In one of her Christmas texts again she said “just need to get my shit together.” However, she will never discuss her drug addiction with me. I guess she feels she has it under control, or that it’s none of my business.

She’s the quintessential heroin addict and frequently lies, asks for small amounts of money, and doesn’t care about herself, or how much she hurts others.

I won’t give up on her, but I am at my wits end. If incarceration and deportation will save her life so be it. If I rat her out to the police there’s a chance she might know I’m the one who tipped them off. More than anything, I want to take down her pimp.

I’ve checked Backpage and other escort sites hoping to set her up that way, but don’t see her listed. Next, I’ll probably go to areas of prostitution in Atlantic City to see if she’s walking the streets, but, most likely, she’s doing in call.

If you were in my shoes what would you do?

Comments for My friend is a heroin addict – should I have her arrested if it could save her life?

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A difficult problem without a simple solution.

by: Debbie Wicker

Your friend obviously needs all the help she can get. Generally I recommend, as a last resort, that calling the police is a great solution because an addict cannot use in jail.

This case is MUCH more complicated, because if your friend is deported the likelihood of her getting treatment for her addiction is probably very low. I would not turn her into the police because that could make her problem worse rather than better.

I would try to do an intervention with her and try to get her into treatment. Does she have any family that you can contact and enlist their help? Does she have any other close friends who aren’t addicted who could possibly influence her?

Try contacting a treatment center and working with an interventionist to get her into treatment.

Sadly, she is killing herself but getting deported to a poor country where you don’t know anyone is a terrible solution. But you’ll have to make your own choice. I’m not there and this is only my opinion, each situation is unique and there are NO easy answers.

Good Luck!


Deportation or death?

by: Anonymous

Debbie, thanks for your response. She refuses all forms of intervention. Her roommate is an addict, but going to rehab. We thought that would be a positive influence on her, but it’s not. Around that time she moved in with some guy.

A good friend of hers is a recovering addict and offered her a place to stay, rent free, if she didn’t use drugs. This friend went through withdraw and told her it wasn’t that bad. She refused.

Another friend, who is an escort (maybe not the best person to live with), and a recovering addict, offered to let her live in her house for $600 a month, but that too she refused.

I am the third man in the last few yeas who has tried to get her help. Her mother and brother are back in Russia, and she hasn’t spoken to them in a year. Her friends have tried to get her to return to Russia, but she says you can’t get a job at her age (nearly 30).

I don’t know how likely she is to be deported because she came to this country legally, and just overstayed. She lives such a dangerous lifestyle that she will either overdose or be murdered.

Sounds like she feels trapped in her current circumstances.

by: Debbie Wicker

Wow, you’ve really done a lot to try to help her. She is lucky to have a friend like you who is trying so hard to stop her from destroying herself.

From what you’ve described she is not likely to survive if she keeps on her current path. So jail and deportation may be the only option left for her. Because her brother and mother are in Russia, she will at least know someone if she is sent back.

Based on what you’ve said, I agree that calling the police may be the only option you have to save her life. She sounds to me like she has both an addiction and other mental health issues which BOTH must be addressed in order for her to move past this.

Once she is in jail, try to keep in contact with her and try to get her both the addiction treatment AND mental health services she needs.

Good Luck,


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