"I been rippin' and runnin' all night. . .trying to get some money. But I ain't got none," said the man in the rumpled blue shirt, his fingers twitching uncontrollably. "It's startin' to hurt now."
It was 11 a.m. The man sat in a chair at the city's central intake office for heroin and other drug addicts. The last time he had had a shot of heroin was about 8 o'clock the night before. He had been unable to find enough money to buy his next shot, and how he was hurting.
"I threw up about 8 or 8:30 this morning," he said. "I got cramps. My bowels getting ready to break."
He squirmed and fidgeted in his chair. A short, stocky 27-year-old black man with close-cropped hair, he was undergoing the classic symptoms of heroin withdrawal -- nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, alternating chills and sweats.
A thin watery fluid began to trickle from his nose. His eyes were dull, the eyelids half closed -- the result of little sleep. He agreed to talk to a reporter as long as his name was not disclosed. He explained why he was seeking help.
An unemployed painter and a heroin user for 10 years, he said, "I usually been going [injecting heroin] three times a day."
He supported his habit by acting as a pimp for a woman and splitting the income from her tricks.
"But my lady got locked up Tuesday night," he said, and his source of income evaporated.
"I started working another lady whose people had been locked up. . .but I still couldn't get any money.
"I got my last shot last night about 8 o'clock." Since then, he said, "I been rippin' and runnin' all night," looking for money.
Ordinarily, he would have taken his next heroin shot about 6 in the morning, but he never obtained any money, he said. About 7:30 or 8, I started feeling bad. I tried to catch a few 'Z's' in my car up on T Street. . .but I threw up."
Perspiring, fidgeting, aching, he came to the city addiction treatment intake center at 1714 14th St. NW for help.
"He's a typical case," said substance abuse administration medical director, Kurt Brandt, who attended the interview. "What he said sounded authentic. . .that man was hurting."