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'This is not a hopeless situation': Former meth addict describes highs and lows of drug abuse

Daily News, April 19, 2013

Brad Hearon, 30, of Colorado, survived a near-fatal burn accident while cooking meth in his car 10 years ago. After countless surgeries and struggling with his demons, he now says he's in a good place.

The long-lasting high of meth gave way to a life-altering low for addict Brad Hearon.

Ten years ago, Hearon left a party with a friend to cook meth in his El Camino pickup. As the 19-year-old held a pan of ether, his buddy lit a cigarette — igniting the liquid and setting the inside of the car on fire.

His friend jumped out and left Hearon writhing alone in a vacant Kansas field. It was more than four hours before he was found; his flesh already melted to the bone. He almost died.

“I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on anybody,” Hearon, 30 and now living in Colorado, told the Daily News. “I went through so many surgeries. I had to learn how to feed myself again. I couldn’t do anything by myself.”

His extreme experience still happens today in other horrific meth cases across the United States. The drug is wrecking communities and shattering lives at an explosive rate, and continues consuming people from all walks of life — from a former Connecticut priest dubbed “Monsignor Meth” to Hollywood celebrities.

While an estimated 439,000 Americans are hooked on the drug — lower than other similar substances — its effects are extremely potent, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration says.

Addicts become violent, confused and suffer bouts of paranoia and hallucinations.

Abusing meth can also lead to extreme anorexia, hair loss and tooth decay — making the user appear older than they actually are.

For Hearon, his horrific accident in 2003 wasn’t the wake-up call that killed the insatiable craving. It wasn’t until a year-and-a-half afterwards when he was arrested for trying to cook meth again that he realized he was in a death spiral.

Sober now for eight years, Hearon spends much of his time speaking at schools, rehab centers and churches about the dangers of drug abuse. He got married five years ago to another burn survivor, and is now studying to become an ordained minister.

There is life after addiction, Hearon says, as long as you recognize the problem.

“This is not a hopeless situation,” he said. “Even if you’ve done meth and messed up, you can get help before it’s too late.”