Kentucky Heroin User Chronicles Drug Struggles On Reddit, Facebook

By McCarton Ackerman 09/14/16

The 29-year-old father of four has battled opiate addiction since age 16.

Kentucky Heroin User Chronicles Drug Struggles On Reddit, Facebook

A Kentucky native who has battled heroin addiction all of his adult life has turned to social media to chronicle his struggle and prevent others from going down the same path.

Twenty-nine-year-old Dustin Cinnamon, who recently opened up to the Lexington Herald-Leader, is facing a felony drug possession charge in Jessamine County that could land him back in jail. If convicted, he will have spent six of the past 12 years behind bars for numerous arrests related to his drug use. Currently homeless in his hometown Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, he has posted several lengthy statuses on Facebook and Reddit that give insight into how heroin use has ruined his life over the past decade.

Cinnamon has mainly used Reddit for advice and support, asking users to write to him while he’s in prison or for advice on how to handle heroin-induced headaches. He’s been more confessional on Facebook. A post he wrote in May was shared more than 5,000 times, according to the Herald-Leader.

“You are going to wake up every single day with one mission. Get high,” he wrote in the now-deleted Facebook post. “Nothing else is going to matter. Family, your own children, your own personal health. None of that will compare with the urge to not be sick.”

Cinnamon’s opiate addiction began at age 16 and led to a two-year stint behind bars at age 18, when he was arrested for trafficking ecstasy in Indiana. An injury sustained while working as a waiter shortly after being released led him to being prescribed an opiate by a doctor. Cinnamon’s addiction to pain medication followed soon after. Within a month, he was injecting heroin.

He has overdosed twice and required Narcan to stay alive the second time. At his worst, Cinnamon was injecting a half-gram of heroin three times daily. Although he’s had two relatively long periods of staying clean, the longest he’s managed is 14 months.

“It’s the most cunning drug there is,” Cinnamon told the Herald-Leader. “With heroin, it slowly creeps up on you; you have no idea you’re becoming addicted until it’s too late. You work harder, you’re more sociable, everything seems OK, but you don’t realize the sacrifice you’re making. You’re sacrificing everything.”

Cinnamon is determined to take back what his heroin addiction has stolen from him, especially his family. He’s a father to four children and is fearful that they’ll follow his same path.

But some of what he’s lost can’t be replaced. Four of his friends have died to overdoses. “In the last 11 years, I’ve lost everything,” he said. “I’ve lost everything meaningful.”

Like many people in recovery, Cinnamon has managed to find meaningful support through social media. Tracey Helton Mitchell, a former heroin addict and author of The Big Fix, has become a volunteer moderator on Reddit for r/opiates because she has seen the benefits of social media for addicts.

“Some people are choosing to be their authentic selves through the Internet as a way of receiving social support and recognition, because there is so much inauthentic stories and experiences,” she said. “If people see a (online) community as being a form of social support, they want that to actually be social support in real life and take that to the next level.”

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.