Heroin overdose described by a heroin addict

From his memoir of heroin addiction, Richie Farrell describes the last moments of a planned heroin overdose. A brief look at what happens during a heroin overdose, and a dying man’s thoughts about the events which drove him to heroin.

minute read

Describing a planned heroin overdose

He is separated from his wife and kids, his father died two years earlier, and Richie Farrell finds himself in an abandoned mill in Lowell, Massachusetts. And planning his own death. This short excerpt below is taken from Richie’s amazing memoir of heroin addiction and describes exactly how he planned his own overdose with heroin…

Heroin needle + rainbow bag = heroin overdose

I have two choices—run or die.

Like a doctor performing microscopic surgery, I pour the contents of the rainbow bags into my cooker. With my good hand, I reach for the bottle of water, insert the syringe, and draw up about 20 units. I squirt the water into the cooker, watch it slowly move across the white powder and turn to liquid smoke. I reach for Nicky’s lighter, flick it on, and move it evenly back and forth under the cooker until the heroin begins to bubble. The smell is sweet and it makes my stomach turn. I steal one of Joey’s cigarettes, bite off a small piece of the filter, and spit it into the middle of the burning liquid. It’s time. I can’t believe this is the way Richie Farrell is going to die.

Nicky or Joey haven’t moved for a good five minutes. At best, they’re brain dead. I hold the cooker up close to my mouth with my bad hand, put the plunger end of the syringe between my teeth, aim the tip of the needle into the center of the cigarette filter, and pull the plunger back with my teeth until the filter goes dry. I have 10 units. My filter grabs everything that isn’t pure heroin. My heart races and I get a hard on. But this is better than foreplay. I’m finally in control. I throw away the cooker, shake the syringe up and down, and tap the top.

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“What the fuck do I care about air bubbles killing me,” I say quietly.

I alternate arms daily. If not the veins will collapse from overuse. Or worse, you’ll get an infection under your skin. And if it manages to creep into your blood supply, you’re cooked. Junkies die. Shit goes right to your heart. Shuts you down, usually it’s a fatal case of cotton shot fever. Yesterday was right; today I’ll fire into my left right below the bicep. Both arms look like dartboards. But, out of nowhere, a huge, unfucked-with vein pops out in the middle of my forearm. It’ll be a clean hit. One, two, three, and everything will go silent.

“Cheer, cheer, for old Notre Dame. Wake up the echo cheering her name.”

I insert the needle, there’s a little sting, pull back on the plunger, and a dash of red-blue blood snakes up the middle of the clear liquid. A direct hit. Nothing left to do.

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“Shake down the thunder from the sky…”

I squeeze.

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“…and although the odds be great or small, old Notre Dame will win over all.”

Everything goes warm. I sit down. The room begins to spin. I remember my father dying. I see Joey and Nicky asleep. What would I say to my father? Joey looks so much like LeBeau, the little French guy on Hogan’s Heroes. Brightness and brightness. I feel safe. I remember, Dad never let me watch Hogan’s Heroes, said it was Jewish propaganda. I see Dad lying on the kitchen floor, begging for his pills. But he’s laughing.

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“Dad, the Jews didn’t kill Jesus,” I call out, “He killed Himself. Hogan’s Heroes was just a kids’ show, Dad.”

About the author
Richie Farrell won the du-Pont-Columbia for directing the HBO documentary film, High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell. That film inspired the 2010 major motion picture The Fighter that went on to win academy awards for Christian Bale and Melissa Leo. Farrell's memoir What’s Left of Us: A Memoir of Addiction has been optioned for a movie and currently in development. Richie Farrell is one of the top substance abuse and motivational speakers in the United States. More Info @ My Heroin Life.


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  1. 🙁 my benzo opiate tolerance is so high i literally can’t kill myself. were talking 50 stamp bags injected 10 at a time with 40 2mg klonopins. i dont even have a “downer hangover”. i’m not depressed but i don’t enjoy life and believe if you want out, that’s your decision.

  2. His writing is good. One problem though, he wrote “cc” instead of “units.” I’m a recovering addict and syringes that addicts use are usually 1 cc (so they have 100 units total), or sometimes people will use a .5 (1/2) cc syringe (which have 50 units). So he meant to write that he sucked up 20 units of water and then 10 units of heroin-water mixture. Just a minor mistake that I thought I would address. Also, if he only needed to use 20 units of water, he must not have had a big habit because that would only cover a very tiny amount of powder heroin. Either way, glad he survived. Overdoses are no fun, especially when you wake up from Narcan.

    1. Hello AB. Thank you for your input and suggestions. The text has been corrected and your feedback is greatly appreciated.

  3. Hi Sara. You can try to search for these keywords in your internet browser:

    site:.gov street drug names
    site:.gov drug street name +snakebite

  4. I found a family members’ journal and in it they refer to having used something called “snakebite”
    When I googled this, your piece on heroine was one of the topics that showed up – along with others on cocaine and codine and actual snake bites. I am trying to find out what “snakebite” is and possibly a dictionary or other type of terminology on drug slang that may be helpful to me.
    Thank you for any info you can share.

  5. A movie with both brains and brawn and a knockout performance from Bale, The Fighter takes a familiar rags-to-riches story and delivers a feelgood hit. -Alex Jones

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