In 1973, while working at a state prison, I heard an inmate from Atlantic City say, "Once an addict, always an addict."

He was a Vietnam veteran who got hooked on heroin over there, but in 1973 he was still neat in appearance and eloquent. But 20 years later, he was toothless, gaunt and incoherent. As a young man, he had made the choice to enslave himself to heroin without realizing the permanence of that choice.

So if you and your friends are considering "experimenting" with that drug, you will be making the same choice. There's no trial basis with heroin. If you take, you are done. You will be addicted to it and become a slave to something so powerful that, for it, you will steal from your best friend, your parents, grandparents, and anyone who trusts you. You won't just steal from your beloved grandmom. You'll knock her down and might even kill her.

Yeah, I know. You would never hurt your loved ones. Maybe not in the literal sense. But you will break their hearts, wear them out, destroy their will to live and, over time, gut them.

And once your family has exhausted its finances to keep you out of prison, off to prison you will go. Once there, you will pressure a girlfriend, boyfriend, sister, brother, father or mother into risking criminal prosecution by smuggling your heroin inside for you. It might be in some receptacle that you'll swallow and fish out of your excrement later. Nothing disgusts you. You'd swim through raw sewage to get it.

And eventually, heroin will kill you - physically. Because you killed the person that was you when you gave in to some creep or some bad moment to "try" it. Don't give in. You can make a better day. Please, do not give in. Thank you for reading this letter. Maybe pass it on.

JOSEPH A. DeSANTO

Ocean City