Saturday, January 06, 2007

Chasing the Dragon

A few nights ago, the phone rang and woke me up at 3:00 in the morning . . . the sound of the phone in the middle of the night almost always means trouble or disaster. My twenty-one-year-old son, Adam, was on the other end of the phone.
"Are you alright?"
"No, not really."
My heart sank. "What's the matter? What happened?"
"I just found out a friend of mine died."
"Oh, Adam, I'm so sorry. Who?"
"I don't think you knew him. He died while I was in Chicago and I just found out."
Adam had been in Chicago for New Year's Eve.
"How did he die?"
"He overdosed on heroin. I didn't even know he did heroin. I haven't seen him in a while."

We spoke a while longer. I tried to console him the best I could.
"I'm so sorry that I called you this late. I just needed to talk."
"You can call me anytime of the day or night."
"It makes me sick that herion is making such a big comeback, and especially here . . . it's gotten even worse than Detroit. Hey, if you wanna do some heroin, just come here to Royal Oak!"

I remembered reading about the three eighteen-year-olds from Royal Oak who were taken to Beaumont Hospital over the Thanksgiving weekend and treated for heroin overdoses. They had mixed heroin with another drug, Klonopin (an anti-seizure drug).

Mixing or following heroin with another drug like cocaine, or a prescription drug like methadone; Klonopin; OxyContin ( a narcotic drug used in the treatment of moderate to severe pain); Xanax (for treatment of anxiety); Adderall (a stimulant used to treat hyperactive children) to amlify the high is known as "chasing the dragon," and has become dangerously popular among teens. Unfortunately, Narcan's effects (heroin's antidote) are limited when heroin is mixed with another drug.

Sheriff Michael Bouchard stated that Oakland County has seen a 50% increase in heroin cases in 2006 compared to 2005. He also noted that these cases were not just traffic stops where narcotics were found.

During 2005-2006, about 133 people died, in Metro Detroit, as the result of heroin and cocaine overdose - the street drugs were laced with fentanyl (a dangerously strong narcotic analgesic used in the treatment of severe pain such as cancer pain). In May of 2006 alone, the problem reached a crisis level in Wayne County when 33 people died in one week.

Heroin is gaining popularity among teens in the inner ring suburbs, like Royal Oak, to the rural areas, like Almont, because it is inexpensive and readily available. The teens are snorting it now, and so the old stigma that was once attached with heroin use in earlier generations is gone.

I asked my seventeen-year-old son, Luke, who attends Royal Oak High School, about heroin use in school. He told me that he can't count on his hands how many kids he knows who are doing heroin. He also knows of kids who have died from over-dosing on the drug.

With everything we now know about the real dangers of drugs, alcohol, tobacco and sexually transmitted diseases, why is it that our children are putting themselves more and more at risk. Are we as parents, teachers, adults, society and the media putting too much pressure on our youth of today? Are we all living in denial of what is
really going on? Are these kids crying out for our help? And are we all too busy to stop, listen and act? Or are these teens playing this Russian roulette because death looks lovlier than the lives they are living?

Well, the dragon has been named. What can or will we do to slay it?


Stewart Sternberg said...

I would consider almost all my students to be abusers of one drug or another. It's vile, aint it?

Years and years ago, I remember not wanting to incorporate any substance abuse discussion into groups I was doing on physical and sexual abuse. Or rather, I didn't want to find the substance abuse dominating those discussions.

Then, I started to discover that almost every one of those kids had a substance abuser somewhere in their background, somewhere in their family.

My, what we do to ourselves and to those we love.

Susan Miller said...

It's why my house is the community center, Lindy. I've trapped my son here so that he won't go anywhere else. It is incredibly frightening!

Erik Donald France said...

Does "death look lovlier than the lives the are living?" Yes, it seems more romantic and interesting. Typically at the community college where I teach part time (you know the one), many students of all ages write about their various substance abuses, past or present. It often makes for compelling reading, too -- check out Tui's blog, for instance. I'm sure she'd be interesting without the drugs, but it adds a harrowing life/death urgency that one cannot ignore.

Very informative post -- a nice synthesis of info., too.

Michelle's Spell said...


My favorite essay of all time on heroin use is "Heroin/e" by Cheryl Strayed. It's brilliant. I'm lucky not to have been exposed to much growing up that way, but I do feel for those with easy access since it seems like a solution to so much misery. In the words of Yoko Ono on her and John's heroin use, she simply said, Drugs make life less boring.

Anonymous said...

I've been in more holes of Bmore city than I can count (Bottom, Federal Hill, Reistertertown road N & S Broadway, Druid Hill, Greenmount, Hamburg St, Fayette and the whole God damn West side) Had a cop jump on the hood of my car with a shotgun pointed at my head, had my best friend od on my favorite Pakistani carpet. Combined lsd w/beer w/ ketamine /w oc's w/ nitrous and vodka and oh yea lots of bong hits and still have not found all my marbles. Lucky to be alive! Hears the deal, drugs take away the pain of life; who knows what that pain is... physical, emotional, abuse, family issues or whatever, but there's pain. INTERVENE! WHOEVER YOU ARE! LOVE THAT PERSON! Been straight for over two years after a month of really cheap methadone program. Easy as pie. You don't get sick, you just have to fight that urge. Say good buy to all your schmackers and get a job and life and strive to be better and FREE. Listen to Hendrix and think of the old days and then look at what goodness you have brought to your life now! God gave you a gift and it's not to waste away on schmack unless you can play behind the back like Hendrix and lite your guitar on fire w/out catching yourself on fire. COME ON IF YOU KNOW A SCHMACKER, HUG THEM FOR TEN DAYS STRAIT UNTIL THEY GET STRAIT!

DrugRehabCenters said...

Is drug addiction curable? Yes, it is possible to make a person 100% drug-free. There are various methods which can make a person drug-free. Some of the most famous drug rehab programs are inpatient programs, outpatient programs, 12-step treatment programs, motivational enhancement therapy program, etc.

whats in a name ? said...

As an Addict, a resident of Almont, and a Uncle to some young men who got mixed up with all the herion and other drugs in Almont, I say this: You have seen some of your friends overdose, some go to jail, and 1 that I have heard died this past weekend, What will it take for you all to realize that drugs and alcohol are a big lie, you will never get the high you are chasing its over, the first time you experienced a drug induced high it might have seemed fun and kool, you will never feel that again and yet you will chase it everytime you use. I know from experience the insanity of active addiction, I experienced it for over 25 years.
So Please Dont Use Drugs or Alcohol.
Uncle Bob