Over the past several years our area has seen the reemergence of the drug heroin. Though this time around it is more pure and potent then it was many years ago. Heroin is a cheap, highly addictive drug and has no clinical/medical use. As the use of this drug increases so does the impact in our communities. The devastation of families, increase in crime (to fund the addiction), robbing our young of their innocence, making some a lifelong prisoner to addiction and in the most extreme cases death.
One of the most shocking things is how accessible this drug is. In almost any high school students know a user or supplier. Heroin can be smoked, snorted or shot into your veins. It is relatively cheap and surprisingly easily to get. This drug is extremely addictive. In many cases the first hit is provided for free. The supplier knows once people try it they are hooked and become repeat customers.
Statistics in Will County: in 1999 there were six deaths from heroin overdose, in 2009 there were 29, in 2010 there were 26. As of April this year there have already been 12. This drug has no boundaries. Race or economic backgrounds have no bearing. It is truly an equal opportunity killer.
Across American communities we are tasked with fighting drug abuse. Financial funding for all programs are being reduced or eliminated. Time and time again I hear “whose responsibility is it to rid the influx of drugs in our communities?” Well it’s all of ours. It begins by educating not only our children, but us, the parents and community leaders.
Heroin is nothing more than a terrorist attack on our young people. Motivated by greed, heroin’s sole purpose is to bring in money by getting kids hooked. You may be surprised that one of the larger suppliers of heroin is Afghanistan. It is refined from opium, which is manufactured from poppies. The profits of this drug have been used by the Taliban to finance the war against the United States and our allies.
In today’s world, we sometimes unintentionally glamorize those who use drugs. We use terms such as “designer” to describe new forms of drugs. Celebrities arrested for drug and alcohol abuse are big stories not always portrayed in a way to discourage their use. Our children are growing up in a world of immediate satisfaction, instant information over the Internet, tweeting, Facebook, cell phones and text messaging. Video games where if you do not like what happens or you get killed, just hit the reset button.
Life has no reset button the actions and decisions you make can and for the most part do affect others. This is just one of the lessons that should be instilled in our young students. This should be done in grade school, long before peer pressure escalates in the high school years. Candy coating life and its lessons does nothing more than prolong childhood.
Bad things happen to Good Kids
Bad things happen to good kids, no one wakes up in the morning saying “today I’ll become an addict” or “today is a good day to die.” Good kids make bad decisions: texting while driving and drifting into oncoming traffic causing injuries to others. Drinking and driving causing a major accident. These things happen to “good” kids every day across the United States.
A decision to drink can cause a loss of life of an innocent person going about their daily life. Then it’s over, no fault of his/hers. From the day we are born we all develop decision making skills; learning the difference between hot and cold, right and wrong. The simplicity of our decisions decrease with age. Once our youth start high school, they have already developed a baseline for decision making. This is a time we need to reinforce this process, “if it does not feel right, it probably isn’t. Know yourself and trust your gut feeling.”
Band of Brothers and Sisters
It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child. We are all our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, but when you ignore your surroundings or refuse to accept what you perceive to be unacceptable therein lays the beginning of trouble. Most people do not like getting involved, but drugs and alcohol abuse affects everyone in some way.
In Homer Glen, Illinois, on April 30th a march was organized by a partnership of H.E.R.O. (Heroin Epidemic Relief Organization), the Southwest Coalition for Substance Issues and the Illinois Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Association. This idea came from Brian Kirk and John Roberts, founders of H.E.R.O., who have felt first hand the affects of heroin on their families. The community came out in support of the march, but we need more transparency in reporting drug and alcohol arrests and occurrences in our communities.
Most people do not know of drug related issues and crimes in their community because they are not always talked about or reported in the local papers. In the fight to educate our young, many people from the community are stepping up. Parents like John Roberts and Brian Kirk, Judge Ray Nash from the Will County Court System, and Tami O’Brian from AAIM who shares her family’s story about alcohol and driving, are banding together through tragedy to make a difference in someone else’s life. These people and more have banded together in their communities to make a difference.
Prisoners of War
As stated before, the influx of drugs is a terrorist attack on our children. Those caught in it the web of drug abuse have become prisoners of war, along with their families. Nobody chooses to be an addict. No parent wakes up and says “I want my son/daughter to be an addict.” We need to stop this cycle, get in to schools, and talk to kids and their parents.
I believe we need to start in the grade schools, but I get a lot of resistance to this idea.
“In the Blink of An Eye”
I have created a program called “In the blink of an eye,” after 30 years as a paramedic, seeing so many lives changed forever in the blink of an eye, many because of a bad decision. I felt the need to do whatever I could to bring real life stories and a dose of reality to students. I think that decision making begins at home and is refined in school. I try to show the good and bad of resulting decisions, the impact every decision has, and the far reaching impact that some produce.
Anyone interesting in sharing stories or helping please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
You would think that support of programs like this would be a no brainer, but it is a fight to bring programs like this into schools. It is a fight to get sponsors to help defray costs, but it is well worth the fight.
People make a difference. Please share your experiences, mentor the youth, and support those who have strayed. Hug your family members when you have the chance, and never miss the opportunity to tell them how you feel about them. Because in the blink of an eye, life as you know can be changed forever.
Mike Schofield is the Fire Chief in Homer Township, a Battalion Chief for the Orland Fire Protection District and the father of six children.