RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And when we started this series on heroin earlier this week, we talked to journalist Sam Quinones. In his book, "Dreamland: The True Tale Of America's Opiate Epidemic," Quinones focused on a town he called the epicenter - Portsmouth, Ohio. After years of documenting that town's slide into addiction, Quinones returned to Portsmouth and found some hope.
SAM QUINONES: They're also seeing this huge recovery culture emerge. There's a competing culture to the let's get high all the time culture that dominated that town when the pill mills were in effect. NA and AA meetings all over the place. You've got this real feel like you can call somebody at three in the morning when things might get a little tough. To see it kind of begin to move out of this, that was a beautiful thing to behold, I think, after seeing a lot of tough stuff.
MONTAGNE: One man who is part of that recovery culture is Jeremy Wilder. Today he lives in Portsmouth. Fifteen years ago, Wilder was a pill dealer in the nearby rural town of Aberdeen. Dealing eventually lead to addiction and then to black tar heroin.
How did you end up shifting to heroin?
JEREMY WILDER: I'd went to Cincinnati one morning to pick up a couple scripts of OxyContin and I couldn't get anything. And a friend of mine come over and said, I can get you some black tar. And my sickness was so bad, I had said, hey, call your dude, let's get it on, you know?
That first shot was all it took, and I sold my Oxys to support my heroin habit because back home, everybody was on pain pills. They really didn't do the heroin. Then in 2004, I go to prison. I come home in 2007 and everybody in the town is shooting heroin. I mean, when I come home, the whole town is a heroin zombie town. It was pathetic.
MONTAGNE: One of the things about this was that there were, say, football - high school football quarterbacks who were hooked on heroin because they had had an injury that got them on pills. Then they got hooked, then they went to heroin and now all of it was readily available.
Were those the kinds of people who were buying pills from you?
WILDER: Yeah. I mean, I sold dope to cops, I sold dope to lawyers, I sold dope to doctors. I had a cop that used to drive me to my drug connection - rich kids. I had two good friends that were very wealthy, and because of their addiction, their parents have nothing today because their children just drained them.
MONTAGNE: You're now a recovering addict, but you're still in that area. Is that hard for you?
WILDER: Actually, I've been clean two and a half years now, but I do take Suboxone. It's an opiate blocker. If I would have an urge to go get high, I could go do all the heroin in the world and I would do nothing but get sick. I would not get high.
MONTAGNE: It sounds like as long as you've got access to opiate blockers, you hope to be OK.
WILDER: Yeah. Today, I have a home that I'm buying, I have a full-time job, I have a fiancee. I'm raising her child. I bought her a new car for Christmas and I just recently bought me a new vehicle. I mean, I've gained that in three years of being clean.
MONTAGNE: You like who you are today.
WILDER: I'm very happy and content with my life.
MONTAGNE: Well, thank you for sharing this with us.
WILDER: It's no problem.
MONTAGNE: That's Jeremy Wilder, a recovering heroin addict living in Portsmouth, Ohio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.