Drugs Kill - A Mother's Grief
On June 23, 2015 I lost my beautiful son to a heroin overdose. Some of you may not be aware of how serious of a problem drug abuse has become in our Nation. The National Drug Threat Assessment (NDTA) released new statistics, which should not be ignored. Yet, many American’s continue to go about their daily lives not realizing the enormous impact drugs have and how they are affecting our society on every level.
Families and communities are hurting because of this epidemic. Even if you don’t have a loved one who is struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, I am certain you know someone who is. According the NDTA in 2014 drug overdoses contribute to (46,471) American deaths. That is more than those who have died from firearms (33,636) or car accidents (35,369). Some of you may remember the ‘pink elephant’ commercial, which was used for years to expose the problems of alcoholism in the family. It was an eye opening educational tool to help people recognize the problem of alcoholism in our own homes that was being ignored at that time.
The new epidemic that people are dying from daily is heroin due to the vast availability of the drug. According to TheVerge.com, the CDC reported heroin is five times cheaper than prescription opiates. The most prevalent users are Caucasians between 20-29 years of age; my son was 27. But heroin does not discriminate, it kills at every age, ethnic group, social and economic group. And it isn’t just heroin, prescription opiates kill and are often the culprit that leads people to heroin.
My son broke his leg and had a pin put in it. He was given an opiate derivative that he became addicted to and struggled to stop taking. From there, I was told, he tried heroin with a friend because it was cheap. Honestly I don’t know all the details, as with many who struggle with addictions there are secrets. Often we are unaware of how serious of a problem they have (even though we know there is a problem) because the user doesn’t want us to know due to the shame that usually gets ahold of the addict. So much is hidden. They want us to be proud of them and see only the successes in their lives. Yet, here was a huge pink elephant walking around in our lives and we failed to help. It is not from lack of love or trying.
There are various sources that claim that these illegal drugs are coming in from: Afghanistan, Mexico, South America and Southeast Asia. Our society must wake-up to these criminals and insist on stricter enforcement and harsher punishment. With young people dying, literally every day, and so many being exposed to these devastating drugs what can we do?
Believe me when it reaches your doorstep – it is truly heartbreaking! How can we make a difference?
As I was walking in the park this week I was stopped by a friendly runner. She advised me not to carry a purse while walking on the trails, as there had been an increase in criminal activity in the area due to the rise of heroin and methamphetamine use in our town. I didn’t mention the fact that I had lost my own son from a heroin overdose just a couple of months ago. It is common to see an increase in crime where there is high drug use. Sadly, according to the CDC deaths from heroin have quadrupled since 2000, which surely means that crime has risen as well. I was grateful that my son hadn’t gotten to the point that he had to steal for his habit.
But – he died.
With so many of our youth dying from drug addiction we cannot, should not, continue to ignore this issue. I’m not even sure how I can make a difference. Perhaps it starts with me writing this article, and warning young people. I want to do my part as a mother. My heart is grieved that I lost my wonderful son whom I cherished, and I will not just stand by silently and watch while others die needlessly to drugs and alcohol.
For those of you who have children who are struggling, my prayers go out to you. Love your kids well and try to get them the help that they so desperately need. Scientists have found that continued use of drugs changes the brain. These youth need professional medical help. And YES, we need greater education for our youth to warn them of this monster devouring them. We also need stricter laws and programs to help our youth. My son wanted help, I know he didn’t want to die. He was an addict and the clinics he tried to get into were full. Sadly, I was unaware of the severity of his problem, but he had been clean for some time. Unfortunately many people who get clean and then relapse after not using for an extended period of time will use too much…it only takes one time.
Let’s not allow shame to stop us from speaking up and getting help. Let’s open our eyes and call ‘an elephant’ – an elephant. If you have a family member who struggles with prescription drugs, alcohol, street drugs, or need I say – heroin- please take it seriously. It may be too late for my son, Ian, but I know he would want me to warn you. He would want you and your family to enjoy life, free from addiction to drugs or alcohol.