Drugs have been a part of half of Perie Prickett’s life — and she’s only 24.
In addition to those 12 lost years, drugs have stolen most of the experiences and memories that come with adolescence and early adulthood.
It started with peer pressure, wanting to fit in and be accepted by classmates. Drugs gave her the confidence she didn’t have.
“It takes you out of your norm and helped me to open up in a way I thought I couldn’t,” Prickett said.
She went from being involved in such activities as dance, acting and theater to smoking marijuana regularly. Two years later, at 14, she tried heroin.
“Once that addiction set in, my social life went out the window and my hobbies and my dreams my aspirations — everything was gone,” Prickett said.
At some point, she mixed heroin with methamphetamine, a dangerous combination known as goofball.
“I would actually go to school withdrawing from heroin and meth, and that was one of the harder things I had to deal with that made it so that I couldn’t go to school,” Prickett said.
Aleron Toledo, a dual diagnosis and primary therapist at the Scottsdale Recovery Center, said goofball might be a newer drug trend, but its origins have been around for quite some time.
“It’s more-known form is called speedball,” he said. “Usually with speedball, they mix all the uppers, so cocaine and meth, but with goofball … it’s made out of meth and heroin.”
According to a study published in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence Journal, more opioid users nationwide now use meth — its use increased 34 percent in 2017. The greatest increases in meth use were reported in the western U.S.
In addition, reports from the DEA show a 118 percent increase in meth seizures by law enforcement from 2010 to 2017.
Toledo said the mix of heroin and meth triggers the release of dopamine, also known as the “feel good neurotransmitter.”
This gives the user a sensation of high euphoria, but the drugs have a cancelling effect over one another, increasing the risk of overdose.
“It will go up and down, and up and down, and most of the time because of the canceling effect, it allows the user to use more heroine than anticipated or than wanting to,” Toledo said.
Using meth with heroin allows a person to use more, he said, setting off additional effects, such as the onset of psychosis, insomnia, organ failure, damaged teeth and internal health complications.
Drug use left Prickett malnourished, her skin discolored and scarred at injection sites and her hair thinning.
“I’ve had a lot of struggles. I was homeless for the last year or so, and it’s been very difficult for my family as well as myself. I really just wanted to make a change because I knew I wouldn’t survive much longer if it continued.”
While using, Prickett not only had to worry about where to get her next fix, but also where to get food, clean clothes, a shower and a place to sleep.
“Having to fight for my life every single day on the streets, that was the turning point for me,” she said.
After struggling for so long, Prickett called home and told her parents she was ready to get help, to save her own life.
She currently is an intensive outpatient at the Scottsdale Recovery Center, where she participates in Alcoholics Anonymous and the center’s drug rehabilitation program. She’s made several friends there, she said, and gained tons of sober support.
“It’s the best change I could have made for myself, just being free,” said Prickett, who remains in her recovery process.
“I’m getting back to the Perie that I used to be … the Perie that everyone knows and loves and just wants the best for.”