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?