From Honor Roll to Heroin Addict, Exclusive Interview with Jude Hassan


Former Addict Writes Candid Memoir on the Devastation of Heroin Addiction

An estimated 156,000 people per year try heroin, most of them are under the age of 26 and relative newbies to drugs. The rate of heroin-related overdose deaths increased 286 percent between 2002 and 2013. The stories of those within these jaw-dropping numbers are the tether needed to wrap our collective minds around this problem. Author Jude Hassan’s memoir, Suburban Junky: From Honor Roll to Heroin Addict, is a personal account of his journey from a smart, well-loved kid with great potential to a fear-filled junkie and how he found his way back. In Suburban Junky, Hassan was the last kid anyone would imagine a junkie. He had loving and attentive parents, was an honor roll student, his father was a drug counselor; he knew all he was supposed to know. When his family moved to the suburbs just in time for freshman year, Hassan was lonelier than ever, shy and eating lunch alone. When a boy his age approached him and offered him drugs, it was all it took. Though he knew better and had all the tools to resist, his desire to make friends corrupted his judgment. Hassan quickly went from smoking pot to experimenting with other drugs, inevitably landing on heroin. It took an enforced detox in a jail cell and his father’s cancer to give him the will to climb out of the deep, dark hole he’d lived in for six years. Preaching doesn’t work with kids, personal experiences related sincerely does. Suburban Junky does that in spades. Hassan, now 31 years-old, writes in an honest and emotional voice. If read and shared early on in a teen’s life it is a force that may well make a dent in the staggering ranks of adolescent drug users.

Exclusive Interview

About the night you were brought home by the police to your parents, how would you react if you were in your parents shoes knowing what you know now?

I would’ve been devastated. I believe knowing what I know now, it would’ve made me much more aware of things that were going on. The one thing I continue to tell myself as my son gets older is to always keep an open mind and an open line of communication. If my son trusts me enough to tell me what’s going on in his life without feeling like he will get necessarily punished in the process, I think I’ve done my job. My dad became very militant, very angry, very confrontational when I starting messing up, and that I believe made things worse. We stopped talking, and I became increasingly more manipulative. I hid everything from my parents. When they finally found out that I was doing heroin, they were so many steps behind me it was very hard to catchup.

Is heroin that accessible? Was it more accessible back then?

Heroin is more accessible now than I can ever remember in my lifetime. When I was using, you couldn’t find the capsulated heroin that you find now. It was all black tar heroin back then, a crude substance that you had to spend a good amount of time “whipping” into powder. When this newer form, China White, became available, people who ordinarily would’ve never tried heroin were suddenly using the drug. There are multiple reasons why it is so available, but I believe the attraction of a pill versus a tarry black substance has had a major impact on usage. Since more people are using, it’s more available. Because it’s more available, more people are using. It’s a vicious cycle.

Was it purely peer pressure or were there other reasons you started using?

I take full responsibility for the decisions I made that led me to the place I ended up. Peer pressure played a role, but more so I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be accepted by my peers. I was at a vulnerable place in my life. Unfortunately, instead of leaning on family to overcome my issues, I started experimenting with marijuana. Marijuana led to other things which eventually took me to heroin. Nobody forced me to do anything. I rationalized and justified my use every time, telling myself that I would just try something once and that I could make good grades and balance everything in the process. I lied to myself to make myself feel better. I should’ve realized early on that what I was doing was destroying my life. I should’ve known better.

Why did you get addicted so fast to the drug? Why couldn’t you drop it after the first time?

Ever since I can remember, I was impulsive. I made spur of the moment decisions that probably weren’t the best for me at the time. If I liked something, I took it to the extreme. There was never a middle ground with me. When I was young and everything was innocent, nobody really paid attention to these behaviors. I never put much thought into it either. It was what made me, me. Once I tried marijuana however, I couldn’t put it down. It became an obsession. After that, it was heroin. I tried it once, told myself I could do it again, and then it was all downhill. As an addict, i became addicted to the thrill of getting the drug just as much as the drug itself. The feel of a needle piercing my arm, the thought of meeting my dealer, the act of gathering money and driving downtown, lying, stealing and manipulating–it all became an addiction. Even though my life was in shambles, I became used to the misery. After a while, it was all I knew.

How did you come about writing this book?

The book began as a treatment journal. It was therapy for me when I got clean. I had so much stuck in my head that I simply had to get out, and writing became an outlet. After the death of my best friend to a heroin overdose, I reconnected with my current wife, Rachel. We’d known each other from high school, but she knew nothing about my addiction. The easiest way to tell her about everything was to read her entires from this journal I’d put together. She was blown away by the story and convinced me to turn it into a memoir. It took many years and countless sleepless nights, but I finally finished the book in 2012. It was published shortly thereafter.

What advice would you give kids that might be going through addiction right now, or to their parents?

Don’t wait, it won’t get better without help. Pick up the phone and get yourself into treatment. Put aside the shame, guilt, remorse, denial, and everything else that you’re feeling because of your use and get help. If I would’ve made the decision to get help at an earlier stage in my addiction, I could’ve avoided many of the things that happened to me later on that I still struggle with to this day. I wish I would’ve cared more about myself back then to get the help I needed so desperately. Parents, don’t wait. If you think your child is using, trust your intuition. At the very least, take them to consult with a professional in the field. Bridgeway offers free drug testing for adolescents up to two times every six months. The consultation following the test is free. Most of the time, you won’t pay a thing even if it’s determined that your child does need treatment. Do not wait for the worst case scenario to happen before you make the call to save your child’s life.

Do you want anything final to add for our readers?

Please understand that addiction is a disease. It is a disease that, if untreated, will destroy everything and everyone in its path. There is no good outcome to avoiding help. Sobriety is attainable. Normalcy is attainable. Everyone’s path there is different, but in the end, we are all the same–the same stories, the same reasons for using, the same excuses to avoid getting help. If you are struggling with addiction, please use this opportunity to reach out and get the assistance you need and deserve.

Jude Hassan:

jude-hassanBorn in St. Louis, Missouri, and lives there to this day with his wife, Rachel. Jude published his memoir, Suburban Junky, following the loss of his dear friend to addiction. Along with his role as a speaker and mentor to those seeking help with substance abuse, Jude works at Bridgeway Behavioral Health in St. Louis assisting addicts as they begin the treatment process.​

Jude Hassan
Account Relationship Manager
Bridgeway Behavioral Health
118 North Second Street, Suite 200
St. Charles, MO 63301
Direct (636) 224-1267
Fax (636) 246-0336




If you enjoyed this post, or found it informative, please consider sharing it!

Comments are closed.